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Fighting fentanyl on 2 fronts

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - "We cannot arrest our way out of this problem only." That's how Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Willis described the opioid crisis facing Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 358 deaths related to an opioid overdose 2022. Around half of those deaths were related to fentanyl.

Meanwhile, meth and fentanyl seizures and arrests have dramatically increased across the country.

"We need to be able to fight this fight as holistically in a myriad of ways,” Col. Willis said.

According to the Idaho Law Enforcement Diversion, Idahoans are now fighting fentanyl on multiple fronts; by arresting drug traffickers and seizing the illegal contraband, and through community based treatment to address addiction.

"Rather than an arrest and going into custody, they get a hold of me as the case manager. I go out and meet with that person the next day and we get them into treatment," said ILED case manager Ross Tocheri.

The diversion allows law enforcement to provide people found using an illicit or controlled substance with mental and behavioral health treatment; versus prosecuting the individual.

The goal of the program is to solve the problems that contribute to drug abuse and addiction.

"Whether it be a young person in their early twenties or someone in their 60 or 70s that's been battling for a long time," said Tocheri.

"We've got a couple of people in the program that have had a chance to experience treatment for a first time; Instead of just being punished or shoved away in some dark corner of society like they're used to"

While law enforcement will continue to arrest and prosecute drug traffickers and smugglers; ILED allows people struggling with drug addiction or dependance to voluntary enrol in the program and avoid a criminal prosecution.

"The type of clients that we're looking for in this program aren't the ones that are out there trafficking. They're not the ones that are involved in the violent side. The the more nasty side of this," said Tocheri.

"They're the ones that are just struggling with the addiction. Instead of focusing on trying to cut it off at its source, we're trying to help those who have been affected by it and start to diminish the need."

For more information, contact an ILED case manager at (208)-521-6137.

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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