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Baldwin calls for action on fentanyl epidemic ahead of State of the Union address

A Wisconsin police chief says more funding needed to help protect officers, who are being exposed to fentanyl

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Fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence at a trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah/AP Photo

Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin used Thursday night’s State of Union address to call for federal action on the spread of fentanyl.

During a press conference ahead of the annual event, Baldwin said Wisconsin has been hit hard by fentanyl, which is now present in all types of drugs purchased illegally.

She said the latest death statistics shows over 1,400 Wisconsinites died from opioid overdoses in 2022, which local health leaders have said the majority involved fentanyl.

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“Many of them were accidental poisoning, somebody taking a pill they did not believe to have any fentanyl,” Baldwin said during a call with reporters. “This is something that we really need to have all hands on deck.”

She said the issue was a personal one after seeing her mother struggle with opioid addiction. 

Baldwin urged President Joe Biden to take further steps to stop the movement of the dangerous opioid from the southern border, starting with using federal trade policy to try to halt the sales of Chinese chemicals used to make fentanyl into Mexico.

“Once in Mexico, we have to have a better relationship with the Mexican government to crack down on these cartels,” she said. “And then we have to have our defense at the border. We do have better technologies and tools to scan vehicles that are coming in.”

Baldwin’s guest for this year’s State of the Union was Waukesha Chief of Police Daniel Thompson, who said his community has felt the impact of fentanyl. He called on the federal government to support better education about the dangers of the opioid, starting at a younger age.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson sit in an office in Washington D.C. during a Zoom call.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson talk about the impact of the fentanyl epidemic on a Zoom call with reporters ahead of the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

“Recently, in Waukesha County area, we had a young juvenile that was entertaining something that shouldn’t have been a serious type of drug, but it was laced with fentanyl,” he told reporters.

Thompson said communities need action at all levels of government as well as buy-in from private businesses. He said that includes more funding for overdose reversal medication Narcan, especially to protect police who are encountering more fentanyl while on duty.

“I have had situations in my career where officers were exposed to fentanyl and it was very serious,” Thompson said. “In fact, we lost one, not by death, but the trauma of them being exposed to it and then having to receive treatments. They ended up leaving us professionally.”

He said making Narcan available in more public spaces and private businesses would help stop overdose deaths across the state.

Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was also talking about border security ahead of the State of the Union address. 

During an interview with NewsNation on Thursday, Johnson criticized the president for what he called an “open border policy.” He said Biden should close the southern border to stop drug trafficking.

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