Maricopa County funding more programs to battle ongoing opioid epidemic

Fentanyl overdoses in Maricopa County have risen more than 6,000% in the last ten years.

"It is raining fentanyl in Arizona," said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent In Charge Cheri Oz. "We are overcome with the fentanyl pills. Everyday, my agents are seizing more and more pills."

Nationwide, the DEA has seized more than 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl in 2022, from 50.6 million pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. For 2023, DEA statistics show the number is expected to be even higher.

"Last year in Arizona, we seized 28 million fentanyl pills calendar year," said Oz. "This year in Arizona, we are already almost at 29 million pills."

Arizona makes up more than half the national total of fentanyl seizures, due to the fact that main suppliers like the Sinaloa Cartel use the state as the entry point into the country. In fact, Border Patrol agents and U.S. Customs officers are finding it almost daily along the border in Nogales.

It is something Oz is trying to combat.

"I lose sleep over this issue. This consumed me," said Oz. "60% of all the pills that we are seeing contain a potentially lethal dose."

County officials take action

"I have never seen anything like this," said Dr. David Crutchfield, who is the Medical Director of the Correctional Health Services. "With these synthetic opiates like fentanyl the deaths are up, overdose deaths, patients are sicker coming in through the door."

Dr. Crutchfield is in charge of a new opioid treatment program for inmates.

"The hope is that we can follow the patients, through recovery, into the outside clinics, and get more people into treatment and see if it has any effect on recidivism," said Dr. Crutchfield.

Maricopa County has invested $1.5 million of recent opioid settlement funds towards expanding the program, providing counseling, medical assisted treatment, and recovery options before and after they leave jail.

"As of June, we had actually we have 745 patients enrolled in opioid treatment, which was up from 75 in January," said Dr. Critchfield. 

Overall, Maricopa County received about $12.2 million from the full $67.7 million that was awarded in settlements, and that settlement money should be paid, in full, by the year 2038. 

Maricopa County officials have also announced that they will invest $2 million from the opioid settlement to support 12 local organizations. The organizations include:

  • Banner Health Foundation
  • Banner Poison and Drug Information Center
  • Chicanos poor la Causa
  • Community Bridges
  • Community Medical Services Live and Learn ARizona
  • Neighborhood Ministries
  • notMYkid
  • Rise Up! Glendale
  • Shot in the Dark
  • Skye's the Limit! Foundation
  • Terros Health

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