DENVER (KDVR) — FOX31 is getting some new numbers from federal officials on the fentanyl crisis.

These numbers were revealed during the DEA’s Family Summit in Centennial. FOX31 was there and heard from families impacted by the poison, paralyzing our communities. 

Samuel Kelley, is the uncle of 15-year-old Josiah Velasquez, who died earlier this year – along with countless others in Colorado – as a result of fentanyl.

“I want people to know this is a problem,” Kelley said, adding: “Maybe the president can step in and take action and sign an executive order.”

Other families say overdose shouldn’t be the term used to described these deaths, but “murder by fentanyl poisoning.”

Those afflicted families joined federal officials, educators and advocates for a first-of-its kind family summit. It’s an “all-hands on-deck” approach, led by the DEA, as the search for answers on a growing problem gripping the nation and Colorado continues. 

Fentanyl overdose deaths up 1,071%

One statistic the Problem Solvers learned about was the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths, which has gone up 1,071% percent from 2017 to 2021.

The number of dosage units of fentanyl taken off the streets has gone up from 12 pills in 2017 to 360,158 pills in 2021, an increase of more than 30,000 times.

“It’s killing our neighbors, it’s killing our children, it’s killed over 100,000 Americans,” Cole Finegan said. He’s the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado and was a panelist for part of the summit. He said the plan of attack at the federal level is evolving.

“We’re focused on the people at the top of the political chain. We’re trying to find the people who are making it and the people who are distributing it,” Finegan said.

Families connected by loss seek solutions

But the focus at Thursday night’s event was on the families connected by grief and a search for solutions. 

“The more that we can speak and give voices to the people that no longer have those voices, because it was taken from them due to the actions that they did unknowingly, that’s where the change happens,” Kelley added.

“Eighteen months ago, I never heard of fentanyl. Now it’s something we talk about every day in the United States Attorney’s office,” Finegan said.

He also said that if his office ends up prosecuting someone directly connected to a death and they’re found guilty, they could serve a range of 20 years in prison to life. 

Other intelligence agencies used this summit to help prevent other families from becoming victims. Social media plays a big role in how young people end up dying because of fentanyl, according to officials and speakers at the summit.

DEA officials say this is not a war against drugs but a fight to save lives.