Community must stop fentanyl before it kills more

By Sharon Van Horn | May 30, 2023

Sharon Van Horn

One pill can kill. It’s a slogan you may have seen on Wichita area billboards, on a banner in your grandchild’s school or in a TV spot featuring Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter and Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a slogan — it’s a fact. Mexican drug cartels are flooding our communities with fentanyl, and it is killing our young people. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. It is put into fake pills made to look like prescription drugs such as Oxycodone, Percocet, Adderall and others. Kids can buy these pills over the internet or from sellers on the street. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that nearly 6 out of 10 fake pills contain enough fentanyl to cause death.  

According to the Wichita Police Department, the drastic increase in the number of fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses since 2019 has been caused by fentanyl. In 2019, there were 139 overdose fatalities in Sedgwick County, 28 of which were fentanyl related. Numbers for 2022 are still being processed, but the most recent update shows 291 fatalities, with 174 of them fentanyl related. More than 100 autopsies are still pending. 

The police department also keeps statistics on non-fatal overdose cases. In 2020, there were 448 non-fatal overdoses in Wichita, including 40 juveniles. In 2022, there were 780 non-fatal overdoses, including 86 juveniles.

As a community, we must come together to fight this epidemic. Sheriff Easter assembled a Fentanyl Awareness Committee a year ago that’s made up of representatives from law enforcement, treatment providers and community organizations. The purpose of this group is to educate the public and our youth about the dangers of fentanyl. Through a collaborative effort between the Wichita Metro Crime Commission and Sedgwick County, a social media campaign is running that targets youth with the message that fentanyl can kill you. 

Just one pill. Just one half of a pill. These kids are not addicts but rather taking a fake pill, and they are dying.

What can you do? Talk to your children and grandchildren. Go to to find more information and resources. Invite Sheriff Easter to your church, business or club for a fentanyl presentation. Bring your kids to “Fight Fentanyl Night” on Saturday, June 24, at Riverfront Stadium. 

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram has called fentanyl “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.” We must stop this epidemic in our community. We must say, “Not our kids!”

Sharon Van Horn is chief operating officer of the Wichita Crime Commission and secretary of The Active Age board of directors.


Fight Fentanyl Night at ballpark

The Wichita Metro Crime Commission is hosting “Fight Fentanyl Night” at the Wind Surge game Saturday, 24, at Riverfront Stadium. Free yard signs and information will be available. $5 tickets to the game are available by emailing