SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO/AP) — The biggest national and international stories always, somewhere, have local components.
The presidents of two international superpowers, Joe Biden of the United States and Xi Jinping of China, met in California on Wednesday. Additionally, South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds and colleagues sent a letter to Biden asking him to push Xi to take action on the production of chemicals that go into fentanyl.
Meanwhile, Shawna Vojak’s mother Julie Baumgard of Colman, South Dakota describes her daughter as a person who opened up to the world.
“She liked to help people,” Baumgard said. “She liked to be supportive, she accepted everybody wherever they were at.”
Fentanyl poisoning took Vojak’s life in 2020.
“We have delivery of a pill that my daughter was told or believed, it was Percocet, that is what she was asking for per the text messages on her phone and within the hour she wasn’t answering the phone,” Baumgard said. “Her son found her later that evening and she was, she was gone.”
She was 37.
“She was outgoing,” Baumgard said. “She loved people, she loved traveling, she loved her family, she was extremely supportive to my other daughters.”
Baumgard says she reached out to leaders including Rounds, asking for action on fentanyl. The senator’s office told KELOLAND News on Wednesday that Baumgard’s outreach strengthened how Rounds sees the fentanyl crisis.
“A group of us got together, created a letter reminding the president that one of the most important things that he could accomplish with Xi Jinping in San Francisco would be an agreement to eliminate some of the precursor chemicals that are used to make fentanyl in Mexico,” Rounds said. “China is a primary provider of those chemicals.”
Rounds says Xi’s influence is considerable.
“If he decided that those same laboratories could no longer provide the chemicals that make up the parts of fentanyl that are made in Mexico now, he could stop that,” Rounds said. “He could stop that very quickly.”
But it’s not just presidents or senators who can influence how a community handles the deadly challenge that fentanyl poses everywhere. Clyde Estes, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, says part of his message about fentanyl is the value of reaching out to the community.
“Offering them a hand of help that there is resources out there and people that do care, care about them and love them and want them to live a healthy lifestyle,” Estes said.
However someone came to ingest fentanyl, Baumgard says this nightmare could happen to any family.
“Please don’t judge based on that,” Baumgard said. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody, so that’s why we’re speaking out. It’s the worst thing in the world to bury your kid.”
According to a senior United States official, Xi and Biden came to an agreement on curbing the production of illegal fentanyl.