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'There's been an explosion of fentanyl in our community'

Brown County Drug Task Force sees huge spike in fentanyl seizures
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Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 12, 2022

BROWN COUNTY (NBC 26) — Fentanyl continues to be a major health crisis across the country and is becoming more of a problem in Northeast Wisconsin.

The Brown County Drug Task Force is seeing more fentanyl enter the community than ever before.

Lt. Matthew Ronk with the Brown County Drug Task Force said they seized 1,072 grams of fentanyl last year. That's four times the amount in 2020 when the task force seized 250 grams of fentanyl.

Ronk said the rise in fentanyl is a "sudden trend" that's hitting the community in full force.

“The drug trends typically change slower, but this has been an explosion in the last 16 months, 12 months," Ronk said.

So far this year, Ronk said the task force has already seized more fentanyl than in all of 2020.

“Fentanyl is much more of a concern to me personally and professionally than meth is right now, even though those are the two biggest threats to our community," Ronk said.

He said fentanyl is less costly and easier to manufacture in a lab than other drugs, like heroin, which is why some dealers are cutting the synthetic opioid into other drugs.

Courtesy: Brown County Drug Task Force
Courtesy: Brown County Drug Task Force

“I know some counties in the northern part of the state, they haven’t seen as much fentanyl yet, but it’s coming," Ronk said. "It’s coming quickly and it’s going to take over everything.”

Meanwhile, the Jackie Nitschke Center, an addiction treatment facility in Green Bay, is seeing the impact of fentanyl in another way.

Tina Baeten, Jackie Nitschke Center Clinical Supervisor, said some people seek fentanyl out specifically, while others unintentionally use it with other drugs. Either way can be fatal.

“We’re seeing a lot more folks who’ve had a much higher rate of overdose experiences, much more life-threatening experiences, related to any of the substances fentanyl is in," Baeten said.

According to the CDC, fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“It’s much harder to get somebody back with Naloxone with fentanyl because it’s so much more potent," Baeten said. "So the supply of Naloxone that the first responders has gets depleted pretty quickly.”

But it's tools like Narcan and the recently legalized fentanyl testing strips that Baeten said can save someone's life.

“Continue to raise awareness," Baeten said. "There’s a lot of help. Just as there’s a significantly high using community out there, there’s a much greater and more powerful recovering community out there.
Baeten said there are varying levels of drug treatment programs, including residential and outpatient programs, sober living spaces, and recovery homes. She said the Jackie Nitschke Center provides programs from individual sessions to recovery homes.

Back on the enforcement side, Ronk said the Brown County Drug Task Force continues to crack down on dealers to cut out the problem at the top.

“People pushing fentanyl are a threat to the community and it’s very satisfying to put them away and in prison," Ronk said. "If you save one life for that, that’s why we do this job.”