Washington's 4th Congressional District Representative, Republican Dan Newhouse, held a roundtable hosted by the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impact of fentanyl on our communities. The congressman also shared information about his new legislation, the William and James Wonacott Act of 2023.
Joining the representative were Andrew and Brandi Wonacott, the parents of William and James, as well as other parents from Central Washington who have become victims of fentanyl, medical professionals, law enforcement and community leaders fighting the fentanyl crisis.
According to Representative Newhouse, “The fentanyl crisis has impacted far too many families in our communities, just like the Wonacott family...to honor William and James, this crucial legislation will hold dealers and distributors accountable...”
Yakima County Sheriff, Robert Udell made note of the fact that his jurisdiction is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis. He added that the easily attainable drug is found in inexpensive pill-form, and mixed into other illegal narcotics that young people find easy to find, resulting in dozens of opioid deaths a year in Yakima County alone.
Sheriff Udell also emphasized that authorities must act immediately to limit the availability of fentanyl, and that Congressman Newhouse’s bill would be an effective way to do so. Noting that the proposal would enact significant mandatory penalties on those who sell fentanyl.
The William and James Wonacott Act, introduced on March 24, 2023, is named after two young men from Yakima who lost their lives to products laced with illicit fentanyl. James Wonacott, 30, passed away in November 2022. Less than one year later, James’ younger brother, William Wonacott, then 24, fell victim to the same fate.
The bill defines federal punishments for making, selling, giving, or distributing fentanyl as an equivalent to first-degree murder.
Beyond that, the Congressman also sent a letter to President Biden on February 10, 2022, urging his Administration take immediate action on the influx of fentanyl streaming into the country by securing borders and making fentanyl-related substances’ Schedule 1 classification permanent.
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