Fatal Fentanyl Invades Wyoming: LPD Knows it Takes Community
Just as methamphetamine rates are finally declining in Wyoming, fentanyl is on the rise.
Fentanyl is the drug of community nightmares, and Laramie is in the top five “hot spot” counties according to the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
There have been 55 overdose-related deaths since January in the state, and 137 non-fatal overdoses in Wyoming in the most recent data compiled by the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces. The month of May saw 33 overdoses in Laramie County, 26 in Natrona, 16 in Sweetwater, 12 in Fremont, and 12 overdoses in Albany County.
Laramie Police Department special agents’ identities need to remain confidential, but they did discuss the fentanyl problem in Laramie. Agent C began by stating “Laramie is an overwhelmingly safe community, but we’re seeing an increase which is commensurate with what we’re seeing in the United States, of the scourge of fentanyl.”
Agent C put the numbers into a broader perspective: “In a recent 42-day period, 4,648 people died in the US from fentanyl poisoning…that’s the equivalent of 1,617 mass shootings in that time. 154-155 people die daily from this. I’m sure the numbers have gone up since this is data from March.”
It's More Than Numbers
Fentanyl is more problematic than other drugs because of its fatality rate and prevalence. While Laramie is a safe community, Agent C stressed that fentanyl “is cutting across all socio-economic factors,” and is being found in a wide range of drugs, from joints laced with it, to cocaine cut with it, and it also comes in a variety of pill forms, with varying potency.
“You can't tell what you’re getting, and they seem to be adding [fentanyl] to everything. You tell kids, hey this can kill you, and they think they’re bulletproof. They say ‘no, not me, that happens to someone else.’”
“I don't want to be ‘the sky is falling and it's everywhere; it’s not; but the truth is… you don’t know. The broader concern is it getting into all aspects of society. Our children. Our children are our everything in our society. Our fear is some child gets into this…it only takes one. One pill, a little bit of powder into something else. You never know what you’re getting, even from a trusted friend.”
Solutions are Complicated
All officers are equipped with and trained to use Narcan to stop fatal overdoses, but Agent C reiterated “education, treatment, and prevention” as the best courses of action to fight the never-ending drug war. The LPD is just one tool in that toolbox. The LPD recognizes the need for much broader solutions to the drug problem, and at times, Agent C said, they “feel helpless” because there are so many factors involved in substance abuse.
“You need everybody to fight this. Treatment, counseling, nutrition, finance assistance, housing…on and on and on. A lot of these people have had trauma. Generational trauma, that has not been addressed or treated. So what do they do? To treat the trauma and pain: substance abuse.”
In the shadow of a seemingly overwhelming task, the LPD focuses on its main objective: “Our mission is the preservation of life. Above all else.”
“We’re not looking to hem people up when we get there. We’re trying to keep people safe. Preserve lives. We do not categorize people into who’s more important to serve. Every life matters. I don't care about your socioeconomic status, your political views, the color of your skin..I care that I will leave you better than I found you. And that’s every officer.”