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Grassley Q&A: Overdose Deaths in Iowa

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: Why did you hold a Senate field hearing in Des Moines?

A: Counterfeit prescription pills laced with deadly fentanyl are contributing to historic drug overdose deaths in the United States, including here in Iowa. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, drug overdose deaths have climbed 34 percent between 2019 and 2021. Among Iowans aged 25 and younger, overdose deaths surged by 120 percent. Tragically, 470 lives were stolen by drug overdose in Iowa just last year. As co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, I use my leadership platform on behalf of Iowans to help solve problems and save lives. I convened a field hearing in our capital city to help raise awareness on this public health crisis, to give Iowa families a voice and to identify solutions to prevent more deaths from deadly fentanyl. Drug overdose deaths, with fentanyl playing a leading role, is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45. Moms and Dads are waking up in the morning to discover a son or daughter died of a drug overdose overnight. This should not be happening. Enough is enough. So, I’m leveraging my leadership for Iowa to help reinforce the urgency of this crisis and shape solutions so that more Iowa families aren’t grieving the loss of a loved one heading into the holiday season. I invited Iowans from Des Moines, Shelby and Cedar Rapids to share their stories. Their powerful testimony will make an impact on policymakers, health care professionals, educators and law enforcement about what can be done and needs to be done to fight fentanyl. I share in their sorrow and commend these grieving Iowans for their bravery and willingness to tell us about their loved ones so that they may help save lives. It is heartbreaking their beloved sons were poisoned to death by fentanyl and had their lives and futures stolen. Thanks to the courage of these Iowa parents, the memories of Sebastian Kidd, age 17; Devin Anderson, age 23; and Bailey Arwine, age 22, will help other parents to have serious discussions with their kids about the dangers of fentanyl. I encourage Iowans to listen to their powerful stories here.

Q: What more can be done to stop overdose deaths?

A: In my work on behalf of Iowans in the U.S. Senate, Congress has enacted comprehensive reforms to boost drug prevention, treatment, enforcement and recovery efforts. As then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I steered the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in 2016 and SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act in 2018 to the president’s desk. Since President Biden took office, synthetic drugs pose an increasing risk to the U.S. population as Mexican drug cartels exploit the open southern border to push their poison into the United States. Testimony at the field hearing explained how precursor ingredients from China are sent to Mexico, pressed into counterfeit pills by the cartels, and trafficked across the border up through the arterial interstate highways into America’s heartland. The drug cartels are lacing fentanyl into other drugs and prescription medications to hook users and in some cases are mixing stimulants like methamphetamine with fentanyl. The result has been catastrophic with 108,000 overdose deaths last year in the U.S. It is pushing down life expectancy in America. The open border policies and lax enforcement of the Biden administration are making the situation worse, not better. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) reported seizing 7 tons of fentanyl at the border. Obviously, it is good federal agents made these seizures, but it’s only a fraction of what’s coming into the United States. Moreover, testimony at the hearing indicated these seizures are more the result of increased amounts of fentanyl and other illicit drugs pouring across the open border rather than a more effective law enforcement effort. Untold amounts of fentanyl are making it into local communities and homes of grieving Americans, including here in Iowa. One lethal dose of fentanyl is the equivalent of the weight of a mosquito. One pound of fentanyl can kill more than a quarter-million people. Last year, enough fentanyl was seized to kill every single American. That’s why I’ll continue pushing the Biden administration and Congress to extend the Schedule 1 for fentanyl-related substances so law enforcement can use every tool available to stop these dangerous drugs from killing more Americans. The commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety testified at the hearing in Des Moines that the cultural demonization of law enforcement is hampering the ability to recruit officers. He said there are 51 vacancies on the Iowa State Patrol. Less law enforcement means more fentanyl goes undetected and more poison gets trafficked across Iowa. As long as I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will not stop fighting the fentanyl crisis that’s devastating families and communities in our state.


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