Alaska law enforcement seized about 2.45 million fatal doses of fentanyl this summer, part of a statewide effort targeting the deadly opioid.
Alaska State Troopers say 25 arrests were also made during the months-long sweep, which they announced at a news conference on Tuesday. Dozens of related investigations are still active and open.
Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell said three Alaska Wildlife Troopers were re-tasked during the sweep “to fight this scourge upon Alaska.” Cockrell mentioned a spring gathering to discuss Mat-Su fentanyl cases which, he said, illustrates the drug’s toll upon young Alaskans.
“It was a very heartfelt press conference with a lot of emotions, meeting with the families that actually lost loved ones — just as I did,” Cockrell said. “I lost my son to a drug overdose in the state of Pennsylvania about five years ago.”
Troopers say the amount of drugs seized between May 1 and Sept. 30 of this year is double last year and “represents one of Alaska’s highest periods for drug seizures.”
Capt. Andrew Gorn, head of troopers’ Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit, said much of the seized fentanyl came from Mexico. The largest seizures took place in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, as well as the port communities of Ketchikan and Kodiak, where a $656,000 fentanyl bust was made last month.
“Just one pill containing fentanyl can kill the average person,” Gorn said. “And it’s because of that unfortunate fact that I’m confident in our efforts this past summer that we have absolutely saved Alaskan lives — we absolutely have.”
With 70% of overdose deaths in Alaska linked to fentanyl, used either pure or mixed with other drugs, Gorn urged people to avoid street drugs, which can contain unlabeled quantities of fentanyl.
“The risk simply isn’t worth it,” he said.
Overall, 4.8 kilograms of fentanyl were seized, enough to make 2.45 million lethal doses of fentanyl — or three for every Alaskan. Investigators also seized roughly 50 pounds each of heroin and methamphetamine, plus about 30 pounds of cocaine.
Health Commissioner Adam Crum said the state has distributed 32,000 Naloxone opioid-overdose response kits so far this year, up for 27,000 for all of 2021. In addition, funding from the health department was transferred this year to Public Safety to buy equipment in support of the sweep.
“That is a health-based effort from our perspective,” Crum said.
Troopers urged Alaskans with information on fentanyl and other illegal drug distribution in their communities to submit anonymous tips via the Department of Public Safety website or the AKtips smartphone app released last year.