APPLETON (NBC 26) — On May 1, Fox Valley area law enforcement made multiple arrests of a drug trafficking organization and seized about one million fentanyl pills worth around $5 million.
“The millions of dollars worth of product coming into our area is something that could’ve killed our community many times over,” said Lieutenant Meghan Cash from the Appleton Police Department.
The bust was a result of a long investigation conducted by the Appleton Police, the Lake Winnebago MEG unit, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), and U.S. Marshals.
Statistics related to fentanyl are sobering, with Families Against Fentanyl saying it is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. This is higher than suicide and COVID-19.
Community tips played a significant role in the recent bust, demonstrating how crucial it is to continue to call in suspicious activities in neighborhoods. The drug bust may not be the end of the problem in the Fox Valley, but Appleton police are sending a message that they will not tolerate it in their community.
“We aren't going to tolerate it in our community, and we’re going to continue to work with our local and federal partners to make sure that anyone who comes to our city understands that they’re not going to last in our city dealing drugs,” said Lieutenant Cash.
Even with one million fentanyl pills off the streets, it's still a major problem. According to Lieutenant Cash, it’s the number one drug risk to our community.
Since it’s such a widespread issue, the question is not only how do we get rid of it, but how do we keep people safe with it?
Vivent Health works in harm reduction prevention services for those with addictions, and they offer free fentanyl test strips.
“We’ve seen an increase in the presence of fentanyl in our communities. That data comes from fentanyl test strip use data that comes from our clients,” said Ben Bruso, a Vivent Health prevention supervisor.
They have seen an increase in the presence of fentanyl in their communities. In 2022, the Appleton Vivent office handed out 9,531 fentanyl test strips. Of those distributed, 2,248 tests were reported, and 1,273 were positive for fentanyl. 56% of the drugs reported contained the lethal additive, fentanyl.
“It's really important that there's access to fentanyl test strips and that there’s access to Narcan in the communities. Those are sure-fire ways to keep people safe and reduce the chance of opiate overdose,” said Bruso.
Lieutenant Cash emphasized that APD will focus on preventative education and continued enforcement.
“For us here in Appleton, this was another example of the hard work that our officers do to make sure that behaviors that are negative to our society, don’t exist in our community,” said Lieutenant Cash.
Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for more information on where you can find fentanyl test strips, Narcan, and other resources.