FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Tuesday marks the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day. It’s being recognized by cities across the country to bring attention to overdose deaths and the increasing use of fentanyl nationwide.

Local leaders in Fresno County have been working to address the rise in fentanyl-related overdoses.

The Fentanyl Overdose Resolution Team (FORT) was formed in 2020 after the county saw a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses among those ages 14-21.

“There is two goals for our team. One is to get out to the scene as fast as possible to identify the person or persons who provided this poison to our kids, and hopefully make an arrest,” explained Fresno Police Detective Dean Cardinale. “And the second goal of our team is to actually get out there to educate the public.”

Cardinale, a member of FORT, says the team has been working to get the word out about the dangers of the deadly drug through speaking events at schools, public service announcements, and billboards.

Fentanyl, which is said to be 50 times more potent than Heroin, can be extremely hard to recognize since it is commonly mixed with drugs like cocaine, and has even been found in marijuana. It is also often made into pills that look like other prescription opioids.

“The addiction is so powerful that it only takes one pill to get addicted to this stuff,” said Cardinale.

Cardinale says he believes drug dealers are targeting the youth with fentanyl, in hopes of fueling addictions and creating life-long customers.

“You start young, you get them hooked young,” said Cardinale. “They want long-term customers so they make more money.”