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Families destroyed by fentanyl death gather near White House

April Babcock and Virginia Krieger have both lost children to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and have pleaded with lawmakers and authorities to step up law enforcement along the US-Mexico border to stop the flow of illicit drugs .

On Saturday, the mothers built a kind of wall.

Fifty banners stretched about 400 feet, nearly spanning the width of the National Mall. They featured the faces of nearly 3,500 people who have lost their lives to fentanyl. Many were young, even teenagers. Some wore their high school jerseys or graduation caps. They smiled, forever frozen in time on the banners, which Babcock said represented the thousands of people who had died from opioid use.

Babcock lost two of her own sons to drugs in 2015 and 2019. She, along with around 400 others, marched to the White House to demand that the government make a greater effort to promote public understanding synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

In 2021, more than 71,000 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US surpasses record 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021

The mothers’ group, Lost Voices of Fentanyl, which has more than 19,000 members on Facebook, says the Biden administration hasn’t done enough to stop fentanyl from crossing the border or to raise awareness of its dangers.

Parents are calling for more attention to be devoted to a health crisis that has lingered in America for far longer than the coronavirus.

“We want a covid-like response to fentanyl,” Babcock said, adding that grieving parents shouldn’t need to be “standing on street corners, having to hold rallies and carrying signs.”

Additionally, the group is calling on the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction and to designate drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 18 state attorneys general, led by Ashley Moody (R) of Florida and William Tong (D) of Connecticut, joined that call, writing to Biden to also call for the weapons of destruction classification. mass and warn of the dangers that would arise if fentanyl fell into the hands of an enemy of the United States.

Responding to questions from The Washington Post about the group’s demands, Rahul Gupta, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement that beating the overdose epidemic is “a top priority.” for Biden.

“We are focused on immediate actions that will quickly save American lives,” Gupta said. “We are taking decisive action to reduce the supply of illicit fentanyl, increase prevention efforts, and provide frontline law enforcement and public health officials with the resources they need.”

The Biden administration is asking Congress for $42.5 billion, an increase of $3.2 billion from this year, for drug control programs. The White House has pushed for greater harm reduction efforts — the practice of providing overdose reversal naloxone, clean needles, fentanyl test strips and other tools to limit deaths and injuries caused by drug use.

It has also taken a series of measures to control supply. In April, he announced $275 million to disrupt drug trafficking through law enforcement programs. Drug seizures under Biden are on the rise, with Customs and Border Protection seizing an average of more than 800 pounds of fentanyl per month in 2021.

Supporters of the administration’s efforts say a multipronged effort is needed, but Babcock and Krieger said the attention to reducing harm from drug use would be better spent cutting off the supply.

Republicans have claimed that lax border security has allowed deadly drugs to reach American communities.

Lost Voices of Fentanyl doesn’t speak for everyone who has lost a loved one to fentanyl – at a time when the drug has seeped into urban and rural communities across the country, leaving virtually no place untouched.

Ed Ternan, who runs the nonprofit Song for Charlie, named after his 22-year-old son who was killed by a pill squeezed in college that turned out to be fentanyl, said he was not part of the group and had not attended the rally. . While he supports efforts to take to the streets of DC and raise awareness, he believes the administration is taking the right steps to fight fentanyl.

“It’s a complicated, multi-faceted question,” he said. “But I think the administration is sincerely trying to get hold of it. It’s just going to take longer than some of us like.

The frustration was evident on Saturday as a group of parents gathered outside the White House, shouting that Biden needed to “wake up.” Using a megaphone, each person announced the names of their missing relatives. At 1 p.m., they held a minute of silence, and the one-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue fell silent.

Biden was in transit during the event, heading to the UK for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

The people in the crowd had come from all over the country, many traveling thousands of miles.

Marissa Caballero flew out of Arizona with a homemade sign that read, “It’s not safe to be a teenager in America.”

Fentanyl, the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 45, his 15-year-old son, Issaiah Gonzales, said in January 2021. Issaiah, who played high school football with dreams of becoming a professional player, has took a pill at a friend’s house and then passed out, she said. An hour passed before 911 was called, she said, and he died that night.

Lost Voices of Fentanyl says the word “overdose” is no longer accurate to describe what happens when people unwittingly take a deadly drug to which they have little or no tolerance. Their loved ones were poisoned, they say.

“He was not a drug addict,” Caballero said. “He was deceived. He was poisoned.