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Idaho governor taps $1 million to combat illicit fentanyl


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho will spend $1 million to fight illegal fentanyl use and resulting overdose deaths, Gov. Brad Little said Thursday.

The Republican governor said he’ll likely recommend additional money in his budget that will be considered by lawmakers early next year. But he said urgent action is needed now for the fentanyl problem that law enforcement officials say can spur property crimes as well as crimes against individuals.

The money will be used for testing equipment to increase the ability of police to find fentanyl. It will also be used for a media campaign to alert Idaho residents to the dangers of fentanyl.

“Meth and fentanyl seizures have dramatically increased in Idaho and across the country,” Little said. “We must act now. Given the magnitude of the problem, we are acting immediately to turn the tide and protect Idaho families.”

Fentanyl is a cheap but potent synthetic opioid that has been behind a major increase in overdose deaths in the United States. It has been increasingly cut into other drugs, often without the buyers’ knowledge, leading to overdose deaths. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. The drug is 100 times more potent than morphine.

Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills said a high percentage of illegal drug use leads to property crimes and even crimes against individuals.

“It’s not just the possession of the narcotics, it’s what people do in order to get it, and what they’re willing to do to be able to pay for it,” Wills said. “It’s what they do when they’re high. This is why it is a problem for every Idahoan, and it’s not just those people who are using it.”

Little in March launched a law enforcement panel as well as a citizens action group to try to get a handle on the problem and how to fight it. The citizens group on Thursday released a report that will be given to the law enforcement panel, which in turn will give recommendations to Little.

Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke, who is running for lieutenant governor, is a member of the citizens group that traveled around the state gathering information. He said he was shocked at what the group found.

“I had no idea the magnitude of the problem, and just how dangerous the use of this is,” he said. “It blew my mind, how dangerous this is, and how willing folks were to take the chance, to take the drug, but knowing darn well they better have somebody there with Narcan because of the risk of having an overdose.”

Narcan is an antidote to opioid drugs that can prevent overdose deaths.

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