NewsCovering Colorado


State law not stopping all fentanyl dealers after harsher penalties

State lawmakers made it a felony to deal fentanyl that results in death
Posted at 6:48 PM, May 01, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS— The revised law last summer made it a felony to deal fentanyl that results in death. Since then, prosecutors filed cases against four alleged fentanyl dealers in El Paso County.

But law enforcement I spoke with said there are many more dealers out in the community and are hard to track down.

"Every time we put a dent in [the number of dealers], somebody comes in, a new person comes into play, so it's a real battle," said the Colorado Springs Police Department Public Information Officer Robert Tornabene.

More people are dying from fentanyl overdoses in El Paso County, according to preliminary data from the El Paso County Coroner's Office. The report said 115 people died from accidental overdose last year, which is up from 99 deaths in 2021 and 47 in 2020.

"We see fentanyl coming into the city all the time," said Tornabene.

Tornabene told me fentanyl overdose deaths may be up to 16 already in 2023.

"The revised law gives officers another tool to get fentanyl off the streets," said Tornabene. "The felony, that has a lot more weight to it, they end up staying in jail, they can't go back to doing what they're doing."

But currently, prosecutors and law enforcement are overloaded by the number of fentanyl deaths and dealers.

"After a death, investigators work backward to link text messages and calls to a dealer," said Tornabene.

He said this led to officers taking about 30,000 fentanyl pills off the streets last year.

Staff at a substance abuse treatment center, Sandstone Care, said the epidemic is fueled by not only the dealers, but also teens. They said more teenagers are coming in for fentanyl recovery treatment.

"Even if you don't think your kiddo is using or ever going to use, at least opening the door and being proactive in that communication can set a really good foundation," the Sandstone Care Director of Behavioral Health Services Halcy Driskell.

Driskell said teens 13 to 18 years old usually go through an overdose before seeking help.

"Our school resource officers do education to the young kids in schools to let them know about the risks and dangers," said Tornabene.

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