Burgum calls for urgency over Fentanyl deaths, stronger border protection

Photo by: Governor Doug Burgum - Facebook
Photo by: Governor Doug Burgum - Facebook

(Bismarck, ND) -- North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is back in North Dakota following a recent trip to Washington D.C. to meet with fellow governors and President Joe Biden.

Among Burgum’s biggest takeaways was the impression that Fentanyl overdoses are not getting enough attention.

“I wish I could say it was front and center because I feel like…under the Trump administration, the focus was quite intense on the whole issue of issue of addiction and considering the border and the fentanyl crisis. In 2021, 107,000 people died of overdoses; a record in the U.S. They haven’t released the numbers for 2022 but I’m hearing from people that I talk to in D.C. that those numbers haven’t been released is perhaps because it’s going to be 120, 130, 140,000 deaths.”

A December report, issued by the federal government’s Center for Disease Control showed that the average life expectancy for Americans shortened by over seven months in 2021, following a similar decrease of 1.8 years in 2020. The CDC conclusion is that overdoses, along with COVID, were the primary factors.

Burgum, speaking with KTGO Radio (AM 1090 The Flag), says it’s a difficult problem to fix, but a significant contributing factor should be obvious.

“If that fentanyl is coming over the border then I don’t know how we talk about the fentanyl crisis without securing the border, and of course the Biden administration never wants to have that topic come up, even when they are with governors that have border states…I’d say from talking to all the governors around the nation, regardless of what party you’re in, every state has become a border state because of this flood of deadly drugs coming in and getting embedded in all kinds of other drugs.”

Addiction has been a focus of the North Dakota governor, now in his second term. His wife, Kathryn, has been a vocal advocate for eliminating the stigma of addiction. She has publicly talked about her two decades of addiction followed by two decades of recovery. Doug Burgum, himself, has joined her in calling for open discussion of addiction in hopes that it will help people be more comfortable in admitting they have a problem and seeking help.

“When we say the word overdose, it really isn't accurate because we should really say…poisonings. And again, I don’t know if you want to call it manslaughter or murder..but to me where someone’s taking a drug and they're not intentionally overdosing, they don't even know they're taking the fentanyl. But such a small amount can be so deadly, so it just seems that this would be of the highest urgency, and we should be doing everything we can to protect Americans in stopping this flow and we’re not.”

The United States Drug Enforcement Association recently estimated that its agents seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl in 2022 – enough to kill every American. Burgum says only one party seems to understand the gravity of the situation.

“When it's coming up in these meetings it's Republican governors that are bringing these topics up because Democrat governors want to talk about more money and more spending on all the trillions of dollars spent…and I think it's just a real contrast between the 2 leaders and the directions where people are going cause Republican governors are focused on getting rid of income tax, they're focused on school choice, they're focused on backing the blue, and you know a lot of Democrat governors are focused on federal programs coming out.”

Biden did address the issue in his recent State of the Union Address, calling for strong sentencing penalties in response to the rise in overdose deaths, and introduced a New Hampshire man whose 20-year-old daughter died eight years ago from a fentanyl overdose, stating that “Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year.” US Customs and Border Protection, at the direction of the White House, is also planning to ramp up its scanning capacity for vehicles entering the US in a bid to intercept fentanyl.

According to a document released by the White House in advance of the State of the Union address, the agency plans to request 123 new large-scale scanners for ports of entry along the southwest border. This would give border officials the capacity to inspect 70% of cargo vehicles and 40% of passenger vehicles by 2026, more than quadrupling the number of vehicles that are typically inspected. Burgum says that there is unity between Democrat and Republican governors in one key area.

“I’d say the one thing that the governors and both parties are absolutely united on is permitting reform. It’s one thing to trade a bunch of inflation by passing all these bills for infrastructure, for example, but then if you can't get an infrastructure permit to build a road, a flood protection project, a power transmission line, a pipeline; if you can't build the infrastructure because you can’t get federal permits then then that's just creating a huge backlog of dollars that are just going to keep driving inflation as opposed to actually moving the country forward.”

And time is of the essence, Burgum believes, in increasing efficiency.

“That's what we say in North Dakota, over and over again, it’s gotta be innovation not regulation. The regulation is part of what’s hurting our competitiveness relative to all other countries, and believe me we're in competition right now with other countries for capital and talent and the U.S. has got a huge opportunity to win in this world right now. Innovation is always the thing that’s driven the U.S. forward and the federal policies right now are just flying in the face of things that would help the U.S. be super competitive.”