CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Members of the Missouri House overwhelmingly approved a bill by a vote of 147 to 8 on Monday, February 25 that aims to help police crack down on the deadliest opioid drugs out there: fentanyl.
House Bill 239 adds fentanyl to Missouri’s drug trafficking laws making it a felony to produce or distribute the potentially deadly painkiller.
Undercover officer Mike Alford with the SEMO Drug Task Force said fentayl is the deadliest drug in the Heartland right now.
“I think it’s huge when you have places like Perryville, Missouri or Bernie that are running across fentanyl. That is a wake up call,” Alford said. “It’s not just the bigger cities. Like St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis. It’s everywhere now.”
Alford supports the new fentanyl bill because it gives police a harsher penalty than a simple possession charge and he says it targets the source of the problem.
“We need something that goes after these big dealers that are putting this stuff on the street because its killing people left and right,” Alford said. “So we need a law that shows that to put away those people to get them off the street to protect citizens.”
Alford said fentanyl is one-thousand times more potent than heroin, and since 2015 it’s been the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States.
Ryan Essex is the chief operating officer for Gibson Recovery Center. He said fentanyl’s presence is also impacting treatment options.
“We are about treating addiction as a legitimate medical condition but the first thing we have to do is get them through the door, walking, upright and alive,” Essex said.
Staff at Gibson are equiped with nalaxone, which they have used to reverse the effects of fentanyl overdose.
Essex believed patients don’t necessarily seek out fentenyl but come across other opioid substitutes that are laced with the drug.
"I can't say enough how dangerous and potent this drug is and anything we can do to stop it from entering our communities is important."
The bill also adds common date rape drugs like Rohypnol and gamma-hyrdoxybutyric, or GHB, to Missouri’s trafficking laws.
From here the proposal will move on to the Senate and then to the Governor Mike Parson’s desk before it can be signed into law.