As a part of her 99 County Tour, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today held a roundtable discussion in O’Brien County with the new director of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Dan Neill, Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller, and other local law enforcement officials to discuss the ongoing fentanyl crisis.
“Due to a wide-open Southern border, cartels have turned drug trafficking into a multi-million dollar business, with fentanyl flooding into every corner of our country. Iowa is not immune to this epidemic. We are feeling the devastating impact right here in our communities,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Programs like the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area are critical in helping law enforcement combat this crisis and provide our local agencies with the needed reinforcement.”
“The surge in nationwide overdose deaths due to fentanyl is no longer something that happens elsewhere,” said Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller. “Iowans are now dying of fentanyl overdoses in record numbers. The flow of deadly illegal drugs across our borders created a public health crisis and a national security emergency. Iowa law enforcement is dedicated to working with our elected officials to stem these deadly drugs and ensure the safety of Iowans.”
“All too often our police officers and first responders are dispatched to unresponsive individuals who are victims of fentanyl overdoses,” said Dan Neill, the new Midwest HIDTA Director. “These first responders are administering life-saving drugs like Narcan to those who can be saved. Unfortunately, many police officers, deputies, and paramedics arrive when it is too late, leaving families and communities to grieve their loss. Our leaders need to empower law enforcement with the tools to combat this epidemic that has been brought to our doorstep. Failure to act will only lead to more loss of life for our fellow citizens.”
The Midwest HIDTA region contains more than 4,300 miles of interstate highways and 300 miles of an international border, including the intersection of I-80 and I-35 in Des Moines. Three out of every four overdose deaths in the Midwest HIDTA region in 2021 involved heroin or other synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In 2021, the Midwest HIDTA supported training for over 300 officers, agents, analysts, and support staff on drug-related subjects.
Earlier this month, Ernst joined Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in introducing legislation that would make the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death punishable by federal felony murder charges.