The United States is grappling with a devastating epidemic that has left a trail of tragedy in its wake. According to the CDC, the year 2021 saw a staggering 107,622 overdose deaths in the country. Tragically, 70% of these fatalities involved the deadly drug, fentanyl. 

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Even more alarming is the fact that fentanyl poisoning has now become the leading cause of death among adults aged 18 to 45, surpassing suicide, gun violence, and car accidents. Each passing day, we mourn the loss of 150 lives to overdose—equivalent to a life being extinguished every five minutes.

The lethal menace of fentanyl does not discriminate. It threatens people of all backgrounds, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. Sacramento County is not immune to this deadly scourge. I

In 2022, the county witnessed a staggering 2,829 overdoses, and the numbers continue to rise with 1,730 overdoses already recorded in 2023. The gravity of the situation is further emphasized by the alarming increase in fatalities. In 2021, 215 lives were lost due to fentanyl poisoning, which tragically rose to 226 in 2022. Disturbingly, the death toll has reached 124 in just the first seven months of 2023. Just last week Sacramento County recorded its first arrest in a Fentanyl overdose death when Folsom Police arrested a man on murder charges following a call in which a female died of an overdose.

Fentanyl, once largely associated with illicit opioids, has now infiltrated a multitude of street drugs. From cocaine, meth, and heroin to Xanax, Oxy, Percocet, Adderall, marijuana, and even vape pens—fentanyl’s deadly presence looms in them all. Illicit fentanyl is highly addictive, and its consumption can lead to sudden and fatal consequences.

As the crisis deepens, Sacramento County and its community partners continue to work together to combat this escalating epidemic. To raise public awareness and address the pressing concerns of public health and safety, we have launched campaigns like https://www.safersacramento.com/and www.1pillcankill.com.

The Sacramento County Department of Health, in collaboration with the Sacramento County Opioid Coalition, Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, and Sacramento State University, has organized the Fentanyl Awareness and Action Summit. The event, slated for August 17, 2023, at the Sacramento State University Union Ballroom, aims to bring together stakeholders to embrace solutions and strengthen the collective response to the growing Fentanyl Epidemic. Expert presentations will delve into the county’s local initiatives encompassing prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement strategies.

Crucial dates have been designated to foster awareness and understanding in the community:
August 21 marks Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day, seeking to educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl, fake pills, and other illicit drugs, while also highlighting the difference between fentanyl poisoning and overdose.

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August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day will be observed globally, aiming to reduce the stigma associated with drug-related deaths, remember those lost, and acknowledge the grief endured by their loved ones.

One of the most potent tools in combating fentanyl overdoses is Naloxone/Narcan. Education and awareness are essential, and Naloxone/Narcan is a life-saving medicine that can reverse an opioid or fentanyl overdose. It is readily available at local pharmacies, the County Health Department, and through the DHCS Naloxone Distribution Project. It is a key resource in saving lives.

To further show support for the cause, Sacramento County urges the public to wear purple on Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day (Aug 21) and International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug 31). Additionally, the Sac County Opioid Coalition has launched an Opioid Awareness Project featuring Gone Too Soon Memorial Posters, commemorating the precious lives lost in the county. If you wish to share your loved one’s story, you can reach out to Lauren Werner at Lwerner@ssvms.org.

Sacramento County is committed to investing in and prioritizing programs and services that cater to those struggling with substance use or addiction. If you or a loved one needs help, don’t hesitate to seek support. For more information and resources, you can call 916-874-9754 for an assessment or visit Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services website.

In the face of this devastating crisis, unity and action are our most powerful allies. Together, we can fight back against fentanyl’s deadly grip, protect lives, and build a healthier, safer future for Sacramento and beyond.​

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This article is part of an ongoing series in which Folsom Times and All Town Media LLC will continue to bring awareness to the fentanyl crisis in and around Sacramento County.