CHEYENNE — With statewide events drawing a large number of visitors in the coming weeks, Governor Mark Gordon and state leaders are reminding the public about the dangers of fentanyl, a narcotic that is becoming increasingly prevalent across the entire country, including Wyoming.
Emergency responders are seeing a troubling increase in fentanyl overdoses around the state, and fentanyl seizures by law enforcement have been rising steadily over the past two years. Even small doses of the powerful opioid can be lethal.
Fentanyl has shown up in Wyoming in both powder or a pill form, and it may be used to contaminate other illicit drugs without the user knowing.
Data from the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and Wyoming Department of Health show the increasing presence of fentanyl in Wyoming. Wyoming had 17 reported synthetic opioid-involved overdose deaths among residents in 2019. By 2021 that number jumped to 42, and 17 deaths have been recorded in the first few months of 2022, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
DCI data shows that the number of fentanyl cases among all law-enforcement agencies more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, rising from 15 to 38. Since 2020 there has been a 200% increase in the number of items containing suspected fentanyl that have been analyzed by the State Crime Lab.
Gordon has asked his cabinet to develop plans for how to fight this drug, work with local law enforcement and bring recommendations to him.
The drug’s growing presence in Wyoming reflects what law enforcement reporting shows is an increase in the supply of illicit fentanyl passing across the nation’s southern border with Mexico. As a participant in the Governor’s Border Strike Force, Wyoming recently sent several law enforcement representatives to a training session in Arizona.
“I am joining other Governors to take back our Southern Border and dismantle the cartels’ drug trafficking activities,” Gordon said.
Law enforcement agencies and emergency medical service providers around the state are utilizing naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. In addition, the Wyoming Department of Health has applied for the federal State Opioid Response Grant, which would include resources for naloxone distribution.