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$290 million needed to combat the increase in rainbow fentanyl, Schumer says

The DEA says that just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person's body size, tolerance and past usage.
Alameda County Sheriff's Office
The DEA says that just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person's body size, tolerance and past usage.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is calling for $290 million to be included in the next federal spending package to fund anti-drug initiatives following a recent increase in rainbow fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid estimated to be 100 times more potent than morphine.

Schumer called rainbow fentanyl an emerging threat to kids. The colorful pills, powders and blocks that resemble candy appear to be a new tactic by drug dealers to target young children and teens, he said.

“Ask cops, doctors, mental health professionals, public health officials, local leaders — really anyone with the right vantage point — about one of the biggest health threats today and they’ll say opioids, and in particular, fentanyl,” Schumer said at a news conference on Sunday. “And now, drug traffickers and dealers are doubling down on their bets to hook young people across New York City, Long Island and beyond by adding candy-like colors to this very dangerous drug, and giving it the morbid moniker of ‘rainbow.’”

Schumer said funding for law enforcement to combat the increase of rainbow fentanyl should be in the “must-pass budget” vote, which could come this week that needs to occur to keep the government funded. The funding would go to 61 Overdose Response Strategy (ORS) teams across the U.S.

The ORS is a national collaboration between public health and public safety that was created to help local communities reduce drug overdoses by connecting public health and public safety agencies, sharing information and supporting evidence-based interventions. The ORS is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York’s ORS team would be included in the funding to work with local, state and federal agencies to upend fentanyl trafficking, keep the public informed and reduce overdoses.

“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.

In August, law enforcement seized rainbow fentanyl in 18 states. The Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning about the increase in rainbow fentanyl and the threat it poses to young people.

Rainbow fentanyl has not been found on Long Island yet, but law enforcement in Nassau and Suffolk counties were issued warnings about the drug. Long Island saw a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths during the pandemic.

Sydney is a former news intern at WSHU.