‘Flooding our streets’: New initiative to combat rising fentanyl use starts in the Inland Northwest

SPOKANE, Wash. — Operation Engage launched in the Inland Northwest to prevent drug addiction early on. It’s a collaboration between local law enforcement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and community recovery and prevention agencies.

The efforts couldn’t come at a better time as the drug epidemic ravages the community.

The amount of fentanyl seized by the DEA in Spokane County increased by 1,098% from 202o to 2021.

“I’ve known a lot of people who accidentally lost their lives,” said Autumn-Rose Maurer. She’s lost loved ones to fentanyl over the years as the drug found its way into more people’s lives. “It was getting really bad, more access on the streets.”

That access has reached new heights in our community.
186% — that’s the increase in fentanyl related overdoses in Spokane County from 2020 to 2021, according to Washington’s Department of Health.

“These predatory drug trafficking networks are flooding our city streets with these counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl which is driving the opioid epidemic,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, a DEA Special Agent in the Seattle Field Division.

The DEA launched Operation Engage here in Spokane to connect people with drug prevention resources and capitalize on the network of treatment and recovery programs already out there. Spokane is also a hub for narcotics distribution in Washington and Idaho.

“The fact that we are getting more programming and more funding for these things, it’s amazing,” Maurer said.  “It speaks volumes. It’s a crisis, of course, but it’s one that we can combat.”

Maurer overcame her own addiction, lost friends to drugs including fentanyl and lives with the firsthand effects of lingering loss.

“I’ve lost people since I was a youth to addiction,” she said.

Today, she’s enjoying life, free of drugs and wants to see more people find freedom from fentanyl.

You can learn more about Operation Engage and ways to proactively fight drug addiction and see local treatment resources HERE.

READ: UW survey finds ‘stunning’ surge in fentanyl use, leads state in overdoses

READ: Spokane Police find 40,000 fentanyl pills, meth while responding to drive-by shooting