Local, federal officials target overseas source of fentanyl

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ORLEANS COUNTY, N.Y. — Senator Chuck Schumer was in Orleans County on Tuesday to talk about the push to get rid of deadly drugs.

Orleans County recently had a two-year investigation, focused on getting deadly drugs like fentanyl and xylazine off their streets. But the work to fight off these illegal drugs isn’t done. In fact, officials said it’s probably in every community across the country, whether you know it or not.

Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, said these concerns are nothing new.

“Since 2019, we’ve had 53 overdose deaths in Genesee County, and 23 overdose deaths in Orleans County — 64 of those 76 deaths, or 84%, have involved fentanyl,” said Pettit.

Officials say it’s time to stop fentanyl from the source; overseas in places like China and Mexico.

Schumer said he’s advocating to push a piece of bipartisan legislation called Fend Off Fentanyl to do this.

“Fentanyl doesn’t start here in the United States, it comes from precursor drugs that are made in China, and these Chinese companies ship them to Mexico, where they’re refined into fentanyl, and cross our borders,” he said.

Schumer said the Fend Off Fentanyl act would allow President Biden to place sanctions on China, for its role in contributing to the epidemic. It would also declare fentanyl trafficking a national emergency.

But Schumer said the concerns don’t stop with just fentanyl.

“Xylazine is a skin rotting drug, known on the streets as ‘Tranq’; it’s been spreading in Upstate New York and in the nation,” he said.

He said the Senate recently passed the Tranq Act, which directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to Support Research, related to identifying xylazine through possible test strips.

And the fight to end this opioid epidemic for good also involves reaching out to those who need help — preventing them from wanting any drugs in the first place.

“Like many areas around the country, we have an opioid task force here, in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties that work on these issues on a daily basis,” said Pettit. “This dedicated work group is focused on education, data collection, working on access to lock zone, access to care.”

And with xylazine, it’s important to note that Narcan does not work on it. Researchers are just starting to develop tests for detecting it. 

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports is now providing free drug-testing strips to anyone who wants them.