(The Center Square ) – President Joe Biden’s open border policies are responsible for increased fentanyl deaths in Florida, Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody contend in response to the amount of fentanyl trafficked in Florida over the past year and a half.

Moody has been warning of the dangers of fentanyl for over a year. Casey DeSantis and state officials came to Gadsden County last week in response to 19 people overdosing and nine dying from fentanyl over the July 4th weekend.

The state is also ramping up efforts to raise awareness about the deadly drug pouring in from Mexico after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law increasing penalties for those who illegally sell and distribute the deadly opioid.

“Fentanyl has flooded into the country, and Joe Biden continues to look the other way as Mexican drug cartels smuggle massive amounts of this deadly opioid across our southwest border,” Moody said. Addressing the president, she said: “Biden, do your job, secure the border and help us end this opioid crisis.”

“Too many individuals are losing their lives because of illicit drugs and substance abuse,” Casey DeSantis said. “Fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death in the nation for individuals ages 18 to 45. It is primarily being manufactured in China and pouring across our southern border. It is imperative that Floridians know the risks and understand that just two milligrams can be lethal. Stopping drug dealers and helping Floridians overcome the challenges of addiction and preventing overdose deaths is a significant priority for us all.”

Over July 4th weekend, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office warned residents about fentanyl overdoses after calls started coming in to 911.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more deadly than morphine. Roughly two milligrams, about the weight of a mosquito, is enough to kill a full-grown adult.

When he left his office on Friday, July 1, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said, “the word ‘fentanyl’ wasn’t a part of my vocabulary.” But by 9:30 p.m., it was. He first responded to a 911 call and arrive at a home to find two women dead. Seven more residents would die from fentanyl that weekend.

Their sudden deaths have “shaken the entire community,” he said. It was “like we had a hurricane coming into town … that we could lose people in such a short period of time.”

“To have that number in such a short span, we were afraid we’d wake up in a week’s time and have 30, 40, 50 people dead,” he said at a roundtable hosted by Casey DeSantis Thursday. “That’s a lot of people for Gadsden County. We only have 46,000 people in the county.”

She and other state agency heads met with Young to respond to the crisis and announce a statewide plan to combat fentanyl.

As soon as the county reported the incidents, the state began sending resources from several agencies and the FDLE began a fentanyl recovery operation. DCF is providing more than 200 Narcan kits to treat overdoses and peer-support coordinators to Gadsden County. And DOH is already providing free Narcan to emergency responders statewide through its HEROS program (Helping Emergency Responders Obtain Support).

Moody’s office created DoseOfRealityFL.com to educate Floridians about opioid abuse and drug addiction and preventative measures and she’s been urging parents to talk to their children about not buying drugs off the street.

Last year, the U.S. “suffered more fentanyl-related deaths than gun-related and auto-related deaths combined,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram said in a recent public safety alert. The agency is warning about the alarming increase of fake prescription pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Fentanyl precursors are often first shipped from China to Mexican ports. Cartel workers then make fake opioid pills or lace other narcotics with them. Fake pills often look like authentic pills prescribed for pain management like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.

Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or benzodiazepines “may actually be fentanyl” or have been “adulterated or contaminated with fentanyl, the National Institutes of Health has warned.

According to the latest available drug seizure data published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since Biden took office, “enough fentanyl has been seized at the U.S. southwest border to kill every man, woman and child in the U.S. seven times over,” Moody said.

Mexico is the top distributor of fentanyl into the U.S., primarily brought in through the southern border by transnational criminal cartels and gangs, enabled through Biden’s border policies, she argued.

Fentanyl is less expensive to produce and easier to transport, doesn’t require farms or large facilities, and can be compounded in people’s homes and garages. Once the products are finished, cartel operatives and traffickers carry them in backpacks entering the U.S. illegally.

Gov. DeSantis created a strike force to combat crime stemming from what he calls the “Biden border crisis.” Members of the strike force initially confiscated nearly four grams of fentanyl, enough to kill nearly 2,000 Floridians.

The Biden administration last fall proposed dedicating “$10.7 billion to expand access to substance use prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services.”

It also permanently added illicitly manufactured fentanyl-related substances as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act.

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