KBI Director Tony Mattivi gave Kansas State Board of Education members a presentation on fentanyl. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — Kansas students face danger from cartel-manufactured opioids, a law enforcement official warned the state Board of Education on Tuesday.
During the BOE meeting, Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Tony Mattivi cautioned board members about fentanyl.
“Make no mistake,” Mattivi said. “Fentanyl distribution in Kansas is coming from the drug cartels. That’s who is behind every fentanyl pill that gets sold in Kansas. It is a cartel product. The Chinese now provide precursor chemicals to the cartels in Mexico.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In Kansas, rising overdose deaths have been fueled by counterfeit prescription drugs and illegal drugs containing fentanyl. Because the opioid isn’t detectable without a test strip, people taking fentanyl-laced drugs are at a greater risk of overdose.
The most recent data on child mortality in the state puts the number of 2021 child drug-related deaths at 11. Nine of these deaths were related to fentanyl. The previous year marked 11 fentanyl deaths, compared with zero child fentanyl deaths from 2017 to 2019. Despite this increase, Kansas children still face greater risks of homicide and suicide, according to most recent data.
Under the direction of Attorney General Kris Kobach, the KBI launched a targeted campaign against fentanyl distribution throughout the state. Mattivi said education on the issue was extremely important.
“We either educate enough people that we cut off the demand and we shut down the cartels that way,” Mattivi said. “Or we kill enough people that there’s not anybody out there left to use it.”
Jenni Ebert, Riley County Health coordinator, who leads fentanyl awareness campaigns for schools and communities, told members about losing her son to a fentanyl overdose in 2021.
“This is just crushing because this has just been recent,” Ebert said. “And still the message is just not out there. We’re just not getting the information to those that need it.”
Randy Watson, KBOE Commissioner of education, said the board would probably plan on having more discussions of the issue in the future.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.