Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), a department of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, has a community awareness campaign, Fentanyl Is Forever, as a first step in educating and informing the public on the dangers of illegal fentanyl, a growing nationwide epidemic.
Nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses exceeded 100,000 deaths in just twelve months, while in Ventura County, accidental overdose deaths have also risen dramatically—by 45% from 2019 to 2020. In both cases, overdose increases are being driven by illegal fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has flooded the illicit drug supply.
A special report from the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office showed data for the first half of 2021 indicating that fentanyl overdose deaths have continued the upward trend seen in 2020. At the current rate, there could be over 250 lives lost to illegal fentanyl in Ventura County by the end of the year.
Fentanyl can be found in street drugs and fake pills of many kinds, leading Dr. Christopher Young, Chief Medical Examiner of Ventura County, to call fentanyl “the great imitator”, as it is often sold to people who have no idea what drug they are consuming.
In VCBH’s new bilingual community campaign, Fentanyl is Forever, prevention messages unfold through five short stories, allowing people to experience and understand the risks fentanyl poses to their friends, families, and communities. In addition to the video stories, the campaign website links to local resources for more information and how to access help.
According to Dr. Loretta Denering, Division Chief of Substance Use Services at VCBH, “The successes we had seen in opioid overdose prevention, through community education and widespread naloxone distribution, have been challenged by the increased prevalence of fentanyl in our County. We launch Fentanyl is Forever as a new way to alert the public to the dangers of fake pills and other synthetic opioids.”
Fentanyl is Forever can be accessed at www.fentanylventuracounty.org.
If you or someone you know needs help, or an Overdose Rescue Kit, call the VCBH Access Line at: 1-844-385-9200.
For more information on the national fentanyl epidemic, read the November 17, 2021 Press Release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at: www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm.
To Access the Special Report from The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office from October 5, 2021, visit: meo.ventura.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/VCMEO-SIX-MONTH.pdf.