Sen. Schumer calls for $290 million to fight 'rainbow fentanyl' surge

"These traffickers and dealers eyeing New York City for rainbow fentanyl drops are showing all of us their true colors: to target kids."


By Joseph Ostapiuk
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Sen. Chuck Schumer called for $290 million in funding to combat a deadly surge of "rainbow fentanyl" — pills designed to look like candy that officials are concerned could have a devastating impact on children.

The push, said Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), would need to be included in this week's budget to keep pace with the threat, which has prompted a public warning by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Photo/Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Facebook

Authorities call the latest marketing shift a deliberate effort to drive addictions among younger people with areas devastated by the opioid epidemic — like Staten Island — steadily in the crosshairs of the new tactic.

"Ask cops, doctors, mental health professionals, public health officials, local leaders — really anyone with the right vantage — about one of the biggest health threats today and they'll say opioids, and in particular, fentanyl," said Schumer.

"And now, drug-traffickers and dealers are doubling down on their bets to hook young people across New York City, and Staten Island specifically, by adding candy-like colors to this very dangerous drug, and giving it the morbid moniker of 'rainbow,'" said Schumer. "These traffickers and dealers eyeing New York City for rainbow fentanyl drops are showing all of us their true colors: to target kids. We cannot let that happen."

Schumer said he plans to continue the funding push this week to keep the government funded against the scourge of the dissemination of rainbow fentanyl.

A total of 61 federal teams tasked with tackling the issue will need continued funds to stem the flow of the drug, according to Schumer. Overdose Response Strategy Teams serve as a collaborative effort across local, state and federal agencies to upend drug trafficking while offering public education and safety.

In New York, Schumer said funding will be needed to combat the spread of the opioid epidemic that has already claimed thousands of lives.

"Simply put, New York's anti-fentanyl team needs green dollars from the feds, to beat back rainbow fentanyl before it proliferates schools, venues attended by younger people, and other social scenes where drugs like this pose a threat," Schumer said.

[RELATED: Ore. deputies seize 'rainbow fentanyl' powder, issue safety warning]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) data indicated overdose deaths in the Untied States were at an all-time high in 2020, and New York City experienced an increase that even outpaced the rest of the country.

That nationwide death toll rose 15% the following year, surpassing 107,000 deaths that roughly translate to one overdose death every five minutes.

The vast majority of overdose deaths were tied to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Experts warn that the deadly narcotic is being added to painkillers and sedatives as well as heroin and party drugs by unscrupulous drug traffickers and dealers who don't care whether users live or die.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, the CDC said.

"I am hopeful we can pass the budget this week with the $290 million we need across the country, especially here in New York, to tackle rainbow fentanyl and the supply chain it requires to proliferate our community," said Schumer.

DOWNLOAD: Evolving strategies to win the war on opioids (eBook)

(c)2022 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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