TPiH 34 – Stephen McCallister

For the next several weeks, I want to focus on the issue of overdose deaths and in particular fentanyl poisoning. And it is poisoning, because most people who are dying from fentanyl use are completely unaware of the substance’s presence. 
The numbers are staggering, too. In the first half of 2021, there were 388 overdose fatalities, which is a 54 percent increase over the same time in 2020. That gives Kansas the 3rd highest overdose death increase in the country. But what are we doing about it? Well, not much, it turns out. And efforts this year in the Kansas House to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips have met unreasonable resistance from a handful of members in the Kansas Senate. 
Those members have wrongly argued that fentanyl testing strips (FTS) won’t save lives – and that allowing these to be legal will somehow encourage people to use drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you’ll come to understand that in the next several episodes. The research and data on this is clear – when people have tools like FTS, and they learn of the presence of fentanyl, users adjust their behaviors in life saving ways. 
In the first episode, I visit with former U.S. Attorney Stephen McCallister. He was appointed in 2018 by President Trump to serve the state of Kansas. You’ll hear him explain how fentanyl grew in severity during his time in that role, and how the introduction of fentanyl has been “game changing” in what we thought we knew about drugs in America. 
In the second episode, you’ll hear from Sharon Mandel, who is the special deputy coroner for Shawnee County. In her work as a death investigator for Forensic Medical of Kansas, she’s seeing more people who have died of drug overdoses, including an increased death rate from fentanyl – which is often found in counterfeit Oxycontin pills called “Dirty 30s.”
The CDC recorded more than 107,000 overdose deaths in the U.S in 2021 – a new record. Historically, nearly 70 percent of those deaths are the fault of fentanyl. The DEA recently sent out an alert about the abundance of fake pills laced with fentanyl, and small town police departments are finding fentanyl-laced marijuanana. Whatever judgements people might have about drugs and drug use, the facts are clear: Fentanyl deaths are increasing at an alarming rate, and they’re striking every segment of our society. 
Stephen McCallister –
Sharon Mandel –