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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.


United States Attorney Bob Murray announced today that Criminal Chief Nicole Romine and Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Coppom spoke at the Drug Information Opportunity Symposium on February 16, 2022, at the Wyoming National Guard Joint Readiness Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Romine and Coppom discussed the prosecution of drug overdose cases, along with a distinguished panel of speakers who spoke about the concerning number of overdoses in Wyoming and across the nation.

The symposium was hosted by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), Wyoming National Guard Counter Drug Program and the Joint Forces Readiness Center. Attendees included local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, health care professionals, and recovery services such as Recover Wyoming.

RMHIDTA organized the conference to bring together partners who are dealing directly with the increase of drug overdoses in the Rocky Mountain Region and to discuss ways to end the epidemic. Speakers included: Dr. Brett Birrer, a board-certified emergency physician who practices at Boseman Health Deaconess Hospital, Dr. Ana Clara Bobadilla, a neurobiologist that investigates the neurobiological mechanisms of relapse to drugs; Executive Director Lana Mahoney of Recover Wyoming; Resident Agent in Charge David Tyree of the DEA, and Levi Wardell, an overcomer. The Washington/Baltimore office of HIDTA was represented by Deputy Director for Prevention and Treatment Dr. Lora Peppard and ODMAP Coordinator Marquis Johnson. Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Region Keith Weis and Wyoming Drug Intelligence Officer Casey Patterson also spoke and moderated the symposium.

According to the Wyoming Department of Health Drug Overdose Dashboard, 81.8% of opioid-involved overdose deaths from 2016-2020 were unintentional. Provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% over the previous year. In Wyoming, there was an estimated 25% increase in overdose deaths during the same period. Synthetic opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl, appear to be the primary driver of the increases in overdose deaths.

“Drug-overdose deaths are an epidemic in the United States, and the impact is very real in Wyoming,” said United States Attorney Bob Murray. “A top priority of the Department of Justice is to protect the American people, and we have an obligation to make Americans aware of the deadly threat from drug overdoses.  We have two main law enforcement goals in protecting vulnerable citizens from overdose: identify health care professionals who are unlawfully diverting prescription opioids and identify, seize, and remove counterfeit pills from our community – especially those containing deadly doses of illicit fentanyl.  But the heavy lift here really is on the prevention and treatment side, because preventing substance abuse is the first step towards addressing overdose deaths.”

Rocky Mountain HIDTA Executive Director Keith Weis advised the participants that “seizures of illicit fentanyl laced pills and related fatal overdoses continue to increase in the state’s communities. There must be a closely coordinated response by both public safety and public health professionals to adequately address this growing threat and save lives of Wyomingites.”

In 2021, DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill campaign to inform the American public of the dangers of fake prescription pills. The only safe prescription medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional that you get from a licensed pharmacist. All other pills are unsafe and potentially deadly. For more information, including information on resources and services available to assist with screening, treatment, and recovery of a mental health condition or a substance use disorder visit dea.gov/onepill.