Kansas senator and sheriffs visit border amid fentanyl crisis

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 7:29 PM CDT|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 1:14 PM CDT
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KCTV) - It’s well known that overdose deaths due to fentanyl overdoses are skyrocketing in the US. And it’s a crisis that is hitting close to home. According to the CDC, Kansas ranks second in the nation in the increase of overdose deaths.

And to understand how that’s happening, Republican Kansas Senator Roger Marshall and five sheriffs from Kansas counties took a three-day trip to the US-Mexico border to gain a better understanding of the drug crisis at home.

“Every day almost, we’re having overdoses from Fentanyl or any other drugs they’re using laced with Fentanyl,” said Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden. And those in the group believe the drugs causing problems in our area are coming from the southern border.

“It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to watch movies, but to come in here and interact with the officers themselves,” Marshall said.

It was an eye-opening experience. During a six-hour patrol near McAllen, Texas, on the Friday night of their visit, the group witnessed more than two dozen encounters between the border patrol and people they think are smuggling—people and drugs.

“They’ve got thousands of people coming over the border 24 hours (a day), seven days a week,” Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said.

“They’re making precursors in China, they’re bringing them into Mexico, working hand and glove with the Cartel to put the finishing touches on it,” Marshall said.

Fentanyl increase in the United States
Fentanyl increase in the United States(KCTV5)

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents seized more than 50,000 pounds of illicit drugs. The largest increase was in fentanyl.

  • in 2021 – the amount of fentanyl seized was 11,200 pounds.
  • in 2022 – a third into the year – you can see in the graphic above we are already on track to top last year’s numbers.

The group visiting the border believes the drug cartels use innocent migrants to move drugs. People who pay thousands of dollars for a chance at a better life in the U.S. are forced to serve as drug mules. Or diversions.

“They will use some children as shields especially, so they’ll have the children smuggle it across,” Marshall said. “Meanwhile, two to three miles up the river is where that type of drug smuggling is going on. "

And when the drugs make it through, they go directly into our communities. And those drugs will kill.

A fentanyl overdose killed 16-year-old Cooper Davis last year. His mother, Libby Davis, told us Cooper spent the night with some friends, and they wanted to experiment. The four boys split what they thought were two Percocet pills, but they were laced with fentanyl.

“Three boys lived, and Cooper did not,” said Libby.

The DEA says four out of 10 pills they tested contained a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl. And as we’ve reported, it takes so little—what can fit on the tip of a pen—to kill someone.

Fentanyl in Kansas
Fentanyl in Kansas(KCTV5)

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, overdose deaths from fentanyl-related substances topped all other drug-related overdose deaths in 2021.

A 54% increase year over year was attributed to fentanyl.

“If it weren’t for Narcan we would have had hundreds of deaths by now,” said Sheriff Hayden. Narcan is a nasal spray that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses. Many law enforcement agencies have trained officers to use Narcan.

“Most every day in Kansas, somebody dies from Fentanyl, so we’re trying to make the laws stricter around the Fentanyl-related substances,” said Marshall. He hopes to give law enforcement another tool by backing the “Halt Fentanyl Act.”

But he says the Fentanyl supply chain won’t stop anytime soon.

“This is absolutely a crisis here and our border patrol is doing the best they can, but they’re overwhelmed,” Marshall said.

The CDC said between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths rose 350%. One of those deaths was Cooper Davis of Shawnee. You can read his story and see what his family is doing to honor his memory and help fight fentanyl here.