Post Reports

‘They weren’t listening’: How Congress failed to act on a deadly drug’s harrowing rise

Katie Zezima on why federal money has a limited impact in communities fighting the opioid crisis. And Emily Giambalvo tracks the lives of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation.
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Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.

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‘This is a town that has seen better days’
It took Congress until December 2017 to pass a bill targeting fentanyl – nearly four years after legislators first received warnings about the dangers of the drug. In that time, more than 67,000 Americans had died from overdoses from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. And death rates are still rising. 

Reporter Katie Zezima heard from nearly two dozen current and former members of Congress who expressed anger and exasperation that the rise of synthetic opioids drew so little action in Washington. They see Congress’s failure as emblematic of a body that acts slowly and unimaginatively to America’s most pressing problems. 

“In 2018, Congress, after years of inaction, had finally passed three opioid packages to deal with the opioid crisis,” Zezima says. “They freed up billions of dollars to go to communities that have been affected. But the wheels of bureaucracy turn really slowly, and places are really just starting to see the influx of money now.”

To see whether the money has made an impact, Zezima and audio producer Ted Muldoon visited Taunton, Mass., one of the first communities to feel the wave of fentanyl abuse. It’s a town that has “seen better days,” Zezima says.

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The 47 dogs that made it out of Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring
Survivors of Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation thrive more than a decade after the former NFL quarterback pleaded guilty to running an illegal ring in southeastern Virginia.

The scandal cast a spotlight on the number of dogfighting rings around the nation, and changed how dogs rescued during large-scale dogfighting busts are treated. Rather than being euthanized, Vick’s dogs were given a chance to live.

“Some of these major organizations spoke out and thought, ‘Let’s just try and see if these dogs could be pets,’ ” reporter Emily Giambalvo says. “They knew that, if we change this in a public way, then we could really change how dogs from fight busts are handled in the future.”

This year, The Post tracked down all 47 dogs seized in the bust and documented their post-adoption lives in loving homes from California to Rhode Island.

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.