SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Illegal drugs continue to be a growing problem in communities across the country.
While meth is the most common drug, data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows fentanyl increased nearly 900% in federal cases nationwide from 2017 to 2021.
In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden talked about the drug and addiction crisis.
“Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year,” Biden said.
The President called on Congress to launch an effort to stop fentanyl production and implement more drug detection machines and inspections “to stop pills and powder at the border.”
U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson says more needs to be done to stop the drugs from getting into the country.
“We know that 90% of that fentanyl and meth is coming over the southern border and the sheriff’s have done a good job of telling me of how hard, how much harder their job is because Washington, D.C., has not secured the border,” Johnson said.
Three South Dakota sheriffs, who were already in the nation’s capital for the National Sheriffs’ Association Winter Conference, were at the State of the Union.
Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller and Moody County Sheriff Troy Wellmen were there as guests of Johnson’s. Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Swenson was invited by U.S. Sen. John Thune.
Both Swenson and Wellman say attending the State of the Union it was a remarkable experience. Both were also listening for the President’s plan to tackle drugs.
“It was commented on, but I don’t think it was really addressed,” said Wellman.
“I think he (Biden) is 100% right that we need to do something to stop the flow of illegal drugs coming across the southern border; what we are doing right now is not working clearly,” said Swenson.
While law enforcement do their part, some lawmakers in Pierre are working to help those struggling with addiction.
House Bill 1041, which legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips, is headed to the governor’s desk.
“We want to make sure that people who are struggling with addiction can have the resources available to them to seek out treatment and get help,” said Sioux Falls Republican Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, the prime sponsor of HB 1041. “And having these fentanyl test strips is a very important part of that.”
The test strips are used to detect the presence of fentanyl in other drugs. During the Senate Judiciary committee hearing for HB 1041, supporters compared the effort to the nationwide push to make naloxone more available.
Also on this week’s Inside KELOLAND, we look at efforts to improve rural health care and concerns over closing nursing homes across South Dakota.