Viral documentary cites “meth epidemic” in Fresno; officials argue epidemic isn’t the right word


“Each one holds about 5,000 syringes.”

14 containers, collected over four weeks. One day a week, for two hours.

That’s about 70,000 used needles in this small closet.

“There’s probably about 60,000 syringes here.” 

Unused needles and supplies, in another closet.

Dallas Blanchard takes us inside. He directs the Fresno Needle Exchange program, featured in a new documentary by “Vice.” 

The episode claims, Fresno has a “meth epidemic.” 

“I dont think it’s something we want to be known for, and I don’t think its accurate,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

She agrees the drug doesn’t discriminate and Fresno has a serious issue with addiction, but says, the production of the drug has decreased the past decade here.

“We used to find labs that would produce 100 gallons of meth at a time, we’re not finding that anymore,” Mims said. “Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee are in top 3, as far as labs seized.”

Commander Robert Pennal, once head of the Fresno Meth Task Force, now retired, saw those super labs firsthand, and the addiction they created.

“We have a lot of abusers here,” Pennal said.

Saying some of what was shown in the piece, was unbelievable, even to him.

“That was a real eye opener, to show you just how bad the problem is,” Pennal said.

“We truly have a public health issue with meth use, in our Fresno area,” Mims said.

The piece also heavily focused in on the affects of the drug within the Latino community, but Blanchard and both officials we spoke with say, obviously it affects all people groups and is a very multi-faceted issue.

Reporting in Downtown Fresno, Megan Rupe.

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