NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A group of mostly rural Tennessee Sheriffs and Mayors joined Senator Bill Hagerty for a first-hand look at issues facing the country’s southern border. Including the influx of fentanyl that’s causing a rapid increase in overdose deaths.

It is no secret the fentanyl crisis is impacting nearly every inch of Tennessee. “We’re seeing fentanyl in literally everything,” Russell Barker the Anderson County Sheriff said. “Whether it be marijuana, methamphetamine, name the drug and that what we’re seeing.”

From cities to small counties across the state, the death toll is rising and Hagerty is blaming the Biden administration.

“This is a war that’s being waged on the youth of America—by the Chinese Communist Party working in concert with the drug cartels in Mexico, and you know who’s been the biggest player in this game our President Joe Biden,” Hagerty said.

But the influx of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in Tennessee precedes the Biden administration.

According to a Tennessee Department of Health study of drug overdose deaths, from 2016 until 2020, overdose deaths rose from around 1,600 to over 3,000 deaths.

While opioids were the overall leading cause, fentanyl was second and shot up nearly 85% from 1,087 deaths in 2019 to 2,014 deaths in 2020.

“I introduced new legislation to take Title 42, this is the public health reason that they’re able to turn people away at the border right now it’s the only tool the border patrol has left,” Hagerty said.

However, solutions to a fix that could stand the test of time experts say will require congressional action.

“These funds have been authorized and appropriated to build the wall and secure the border,” the junior Tennessee senator said, advocating for more action to build a border wall.

But Democrats and Republicans appear to be far from a bipartisan solution.

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According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, Tennessee is averaging 2,089 drug overdoses a year.

If you or anyone you know suffers from drug abuse and/or addiction there are resources available.

The Tennessee Redline is the 24/7/365 resource for substance abuse treatment referrals. Anyone can call or text 800-889-9789 for confidential referrals.