FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Fresno officials are warning about what they are calling ‘the other pandemic.’ Officials say from 2019 to 2020 fentanyl deaths in the county have increased by over 200%.
The spike in overdoses is high in the younger generations with the Fresno County Coroner’s Office reporting a 400% jump in fentanyl overdoses for those under 20 years old from 2019-2021. Officials are hoping by using technology they can start to address the opioid epidemic.
“We know that this drug is more than 100 times more potent than heroin. That is dangerous,” said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.
As Fresno County Health officials battle the COVID-19 pandemic, another pandemic is causing heartache in the community, the opioid pandemic.
Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s Interim Health officer said, “Fentanyl is causing a lot of overdoses and deaths.”
According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, fentanyl-related deaths jumped from 15 in 2019 to 40 deaths in 2020.
Balderrama says one of the scariest things about the trend is the amount of fentanyl getting into the hands of young people.
“All they have to do is go on Snapchat or one of the other social media platforms, send a message and, you know within, 15 to 20 minutes they can get access to that drug.”
Fresno County Superintendent, Jim Yovino, says the community needs to work together to put an end to the rise in fentanyl cases impacting teenagers.
“We need to get in front of this and there are people in this community who have been trying to do that for years and you know one loss of life is too many.”
Yovino says his office went straight to high schoolers to develop public service announcements to educate students and parents of the dangers of fentanyl. He says the PSAs are running on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and even in movie theaters with the hope these conversations will continue at the family dinner table.
“If we can get that out of these ads, where parents are talking to their children then we have won. That is what we have to do, we have to get the word out. I just do not want another child to overdose or worse than that, lose their life as a result of fentanyl.”
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office says there have been 27 fentanyl-related deaths in the county this year.