WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The fentanyl problem is getting more serious in the Wichita area, leading to more deaths. On Tuesday, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter took his concerns to the Board of County Commissioners.

“PD (Wichita Police Department) worked five suspected overdose cases in a 24-hour period, two of which were juveniles,” Easter said. “We had one out where I live in the Colwich area, went to Andale High School, suspected overdose. He was 18, senior in high school … we’ve just seen an increase in those kind of calls coming through.”

He said law enforcement officers are intercepting and seizing a lot of fentanyl.

“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of pills,” Easter said.

He thinks that the real number of pills in the community is much higher.

“We’re probably only seeing, only probably interdicting about a tenth of what’s coming in here,” Easter said.

The sheriff said the number of overdose deaths in Sedgwick County and surrounding counties jumped from 128 in 2018 to 263 last year. He said 144 of last year’s deaths were fentanyl-related.

(Courtesy Sedgwick County)

Easter said part of the problem is that it doesn’t take much fentanyl to be deadly. He said one granule of fentanyl might kill a person, but two granules will kill a person.

“Folks who have a high tolerance level will probably survive it. Folks that have never done this type of hard drugs, they might not,” Easter said. “We’re talking about our juveniles. One pill can kill is true.”

He said there is no way of knowing if a pill has one or two granules of fentanyl in it.

“These are not rocket scientists down in the cartels that are making this stuff and shipping it to the United States,” Easter said.

It appears fentanyl can be in any pill or drug.

“We’re … seeing through the lab, methamphetamine laced with this, heroin is laced with fentanyl, and I suspect, sooner or later, we’ll probably get marijuana laced with this stuff, ’cause it’s the trend that we’re seeing,” he said.

Easter is concerned about kids who often think they are invincible. He also said it only costs about $8 a pill, making it affordable.

“They’re going to try this stuff, and this isn’t something you experiment with ’cause it will kill you.”

Easter wants to get a message to parents to get involved in their children’s lives and know the danger. And he wants the message to be ready before schools let out for the summer.

“The message to kids should be, ‘Don’t take anything. I don’t care what it is or who’s trying to give it to you because it all could be laced with fentanyl now,'” he said.

The sheriff is working with area police departments, school districts, the Wichita Metro Crime Commission, TV and radio stations, and other stakeholders in the community to create a campaign that will reach everyone, no matter their age, race, or gender.

“This is something that needs to be out for those kids that are out of school, plain and simple,” he said.

(Courtesy Sedgwick County)

Easter is not giving up on finding the dealers and holding them accountable.

“If we can trackback who sold it to them, we can look at it as a homicide, a form of homicide,” he said. “So we’re starting to pursue these cases that way. Are they easy? No, because these are dope dealers, and these are folks that are addicted to dope, so they’re not really willing to talk unless it was somebody they were really close to. And we can get them into some type of rehab, and sometimes we can get information from them at that point.”

Sedgwick County commissioners offered a few suggestions for Easter to consider so that the message gets to the right people. Easter took their ideas and said he is also working with some professionals who know how to reach target audiences.