FIRST ON FOX: Republican Study Committee (RSC) chairman Jim Banks, of Indiana, led several of his RSC colleagues in a request to meet with President Biden to address the fentanyl crisis plaguing America and give him a box containing victims’ obituaries.
Banks and seven of his fellow RSC members sent the letter following their fentanyl roundtable last month, which included family members of victims who lost their lives to the deadly drug.
The lawmakers are requesting to sit down with the president and find a solution to the problem, as well as fulfill their roundtable promise to deliver a box of letters, photos and obituaries of the family members’ loved ones.
Patricia Drewes, who lost her daughter Heaven Leigh Nelson in 2019 at the age of 24, organized the collection of obituaries from other affected families.
“My only child is gone. This is about saving others’ children,” Drewes said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Saving the future of this country. Never in American history have so many gotten away with the murder of so many others. I decided to collect obituaries from parents across the country to hopefully make President Biden see what is happening in this country.”
Another mother from the roundtable, Lori Ashenfelder, described the many losses that have come with the death of her son DJ by fentanyl.
“On July 15, 2021, our only child, Dean ‘DJ’ Alan Ashenfelder, Jr., died in our home of fentanyl poisoning, alone in his bedroom I found him too late,” Ashenfelder said. “In the days, weeks and months since we have become aware of the many losses that come with the passing of a child, we will not see him fall in love, marry, have our grandbabies, nor see him become the incredible man we believed he was destined to become.”
“To lose my son to synthetic fentanyl, a lethal drug that is illegally making its way into our country, is devastating!” said Theresa Juillerat, another fentanyl roundtable mother who lost her son Christopher at age 23. “Parents all across our nation are having to bury their children in record numbers, while our pleas and call to action are ignored by those who can effectively make a difference.”
“We need our Administration to acknowledge this crisis and start taking a serious approach to saving lives!” Juillerat added.
Banks told Fox News Digital that when “we talk about fentanyl deaths, we usually talk about numbers.”
“For example, there were 70,000 Americans killed by fentanyl last year—an all-time record,” Banks said. “But those 70,000 Americans have names—and they have families and their stories deserve to be heard.”
In the letter, Banks and his fellow RSC members requested to meet with President Biden and ripped into him and his administration over the crisis, writing it “is clear that families’ pleas to the administration to step up their fight against the fentanyl crisis have fallen on deaf ears.”
“We respectfully request a meeting so that we can discuss solutions to the fentanyl crisis, discuss what we learned from constituents at the roundtable, and share with you a box of obituaries, pictures, and letters from grieving loved ones who want you to see the real life impact your refusal to address this crisis is having on families throughout our country,” the letter reads.
“We would also like to discuss solutions to the crisis, such as increasing resources for federal law enforcement and giving prosecutors more tools to put drug traffickers and drug dealers behind bars. Lastly, we urge you to use every authority available to step up the fight against the scourge of fentanyl which is pouring through the southern border at record rates. We are losing too many sons and daughters from this poison being trafficked into the United States for this crisis to be ignored.”
Joining Banks on the letter are seven of his fellow RSC colleagues, including Reps. Chip Roy and August Pfluger of Texas, Lisa McClain of Michigan, and Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.
Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Rahul Gupta told Fox News Digital it “is a top priority of President Biden to beat the epidemic of drug overdoses and poisonings” and called on Congress to provide Biden’s requested funding.
“Recently, we hosted families at the White House to hear directly from people who have lost loved ones and discuss how we can all work together to save lives,” Gupta said. “I have met so many families with similar stories in red states and blue states; this is not a partisan issue.”
“That’s why, as part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda, we have taken decisive actions to remove barriers to treatment and reduce the supply of fentanyl by sanctioning traffickers, taking global action on its precursors, and increasing funding for law enforcement,” the ONDCP director said.
“At a time when we are losing an American every five minutes, we need Congress to provide the historic funding that President Biden has called for in his budget to stop fentanyl trafficking and prevent overdoses,” he added.
A White House spokesperson also pointed to actions the Biden administration has taken to address the opioid crisis, including Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy that calls for a whole-of-government approach to the situation.
However, the White House did not answer Fox News Digital’s question about whether the president would meet with the Republican lawmakers.
In their roundtable, Banks and his RSC colleagues said the crisis at the southern border is further driving the fentanyl crisis affecting American communities of all stripes.
The Drug Enforcement Administration put out a warning about rainbow-colored fentanyl pills that look like candy as the nation heads toward Halloween.