On Tuesday, February 15, Texas Governor Greg Abbott hosted a roundtable at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Worth to discuss the fentanyl crisis affecting the nation.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid usually prescribed to treat severe pain. Some people abuse the drug intentionally. However, sometimes people unintentionally ingest the deadly drug. 

The roundtable discussed the increase of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills sold as Adderall and Xanax that are flowing into communities and causing some individuals to unknowingly ingest the drug. 

Joining Governor Abbott at the fentanyl crisis roundtable were members of law enforcement and family whose loved ones lost their lives due to overdoses. Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner were some law enforcement members who were part of the discussion. 

“This crisis isn’t unique to Texas – it’s a crisis plaguing our entire country. Communities from coast to coast are mired in this tragedy, and we must take action.” Governor Abbott said in a statement before the fentanyl crisis roundtable. 

“The families joining me today are helping us put a face to the stark statistics surrounding the fentanyl crisis, and I am grateful to them for sharing their stories to shed light on this horrific tragedy.” Governor Abbott added. 

Virginia Krieger shared the story of her daughter Tiffany who was having back pain when a friend gave her what they believed was a pain pill. Stephanie Hallstorm shared the story of her 16-year-old son, whom she had to try and resuscitate after he ingested a pill that a friend gave to him. Both pills were laced with fentanyl resulting in both of their fatalities. 

“This is just six of hundreds and hundreds of stories like my own,” Hallstorm said, while she held a booklet titled “6 Texas Fentanyl Victims out of 100’s” that contained the story of her son’s death.

According to Governor Abbott’s office, over 1,334 fentanyl-related deaths occurred in Texas in 2021 alone. Nationwide, an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths occurred during a 12-month period that ended in April 2021. This overdose fatality figure is a 28.5% increase from the same period the prior year. 

The data also showed that in the same 12-month period, the number of estimated overdose deaths from opioids, including fentanyl, was 75,673, a sharp increase from the year prior when that number was 56,064. 

According to Sheriff Skinner, there has been a 485% increase in fentanyl poisonings over the last two years and an increase by over 50% in opioid-related deaths in Collin County alone. 

In July 2021, Governor Abbott signed the bipartisan Senate Bill 768 into law, increasing the penalties for manufacturing and distributing fentanyl in Texas.

Governor Abbott blamed the Biden Administration’s border policies for the fentanyl crisis. 

“Because of President Biden’s open border policies, deadly drugs like fentanyl are flooding our streets and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people,” said Governor Abbott.

According to Abbott’s office, over 232 million doses of fentanyl have been seized at the U.S.-Mexico border since March 2021, when Abbott launched Operation Lone Star. The operation focuses on countering unlawful migration and the illegal drug trade along the southern border. 

According to a federal government report released by the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking this month, “the dominant source of illegally sourced fentanyl has been Mexico.”

“The drug is manufactured in illegal laboratories [in Mexico] using precursors from Asia – mainly [China] – and is trafficked principally by land into the United States,” the report states. 

The report says fentanyl is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in packages, vehicles, or persons. Given that the drug is incredibly potent at a small amount, the drug is easy to hide. 

“It is difficult to interdict given that just a small physical amount of this potent drug is enough to satisfy U.S. demand, making it highly profitable for traffickers and dealers,” the report says.