PHOENIX — Local, state and even federal agencies all working together on Arizona’s opioid crisis.
“People are dying at an alarming rate,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Arizona. “We are committed to combating this crisis, to working with all Arizona law enforcement agencies, to supporting the governor’s well-declared state of emergency.”
Gov. Doug Ducey declared that health emergency in Arizona on Monday after statewide data showed there was a 16 percent increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t just do immigration; they also investigate the people that are attempting to smuggle drugs into Arizona from outside of the United States, among other things.
“Heroin is not produced in the U.S., synthetic opioids are not produced in the US,” Brown said. “They predominately come into Arizona through China and through Mexico.”
ICE agents are finding counterfeit pills containing much stronger and more potent chemicals like fentanyl are even too strong for habitual users.
“Even with somebody that’s abusing or using opioids regularly, they can have tragic results because it’s not the drug that their body is used to taking,” he said.
There needs to be a proper law enforcement response to this epidemic, he said.
“There’s been a definite shift on where the drugs come from that have made Arizona a very big nexus because of our proximity to Mexico,” he said. “For the drugs entering the country, whether they stay here or transit to other parts of the United States, (it’s) the Northeast, the Midwest and the Southeast who are also struggling with this opioid crisis.”
Officials can’t do it alone, Brown said.
They need the public to provide us information at ICE.gov.
“This is a big fight. It’s going to take everybody and that includes the public stepping up to help out,” Brown said.