We are members of the Friday Night Live Tuolumne County Summerville HS Bears Campus Action Group, where we address and advocate for greater awareness and the discouragement of substance abuse amongst our community’s population, specifically the youth.
Our county already is dealing with higher than state average rates of substance use, poor mental health, and thoughts of suicide (ideation) among youth. While we remain very concerned about alcohol, tobacco/vaping and other drugs and see the need to advocate for positive change towards educating youth so they can make healthy choices, we think the fentanyl epidemic deserves immediate attention and action from our communities.
We are experiencing a substantial rise in fentanyl use overall, including overdoses in teenagers and even younger children. According to Tuolumne County Public Health Department’s overall figures, “Opioid-related overdose deaths increased from 2018 (54 total) to 2020 (274 total), a 407% increase largely driven by fentanyl. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased from 2018 (36 total) to 2020 (261 total), a 625% increase” and it is still rising today.
Tuolumne County is not the only place that is experiencing spikes of fentanyl overdoses. In fact, in California as a whole, 2021 statistics show “there were 6,843 opioid-related overdose deaths…5,722…related to fentanyl. In 2021, there were 224 fentanyl-related overdose deaths among teens, ages 15–19 years old, in California,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
This problem is only going to continue increasing in severity, which is why we are advocating that the state and local governments and school districts act now.
Our proposal consists of improving outreach education: informing individuals, specifically teenagers, of the dangers of fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs alone and in combination with alcohol and other drugs, how to deal with addiction and overdose whether used accidentally (“fentanyl poisoning”) or purposefully.
Among our tasks, we plan to get the word out where students are listening and encourage them to learn more about fentanyl, the risks and effects, and impacts it has on us. Ahead of that we are in the process of finalizing and delivering a school survey to determine what students know about fentanyl.
We also call for our schools to provide expanded educational opportunities at all grade levels that use personal experiences, relevant references, and engagement to provide essential education on substance use, signs and symptoms, physical and mental health impacts, addiction, and how and where to get help.
If we do not provide the students of future generations the skills and knowledge of how to avoid drug use, related deaths — especially from fentanyl, opioids and other highly addictive substances that are increasing in availability — will only increase exponentially.
It is time to take strong, definitive, and effective actions to protect the youth and the population of California from these dangerous and life-threatening drugs.
Please join us in our efforts to spread the word about the very real dangers of these substances and help us advocate for the education we need in our schools so that together our communities can immediately address this imminent and deadly threat.
Jace Hewitt, Katie Johnson, Audrey Patey, Rocky Rhoades, Ariella Soldati, and Clara Vogt on behalf of the FNL Summerville Bears Campus Action Group
Friday Night Live is a program provided through the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency and is a school-based effort to promote drug and alcohol prevention activities, along with wellness programs, healthy relationships, and leadership.
Click on the fact sheet link below to learn more about Fentanyl
Note: The U.S. Congress has declared May 10 the country’s first-ever Fentanyl Awareness Day. As the bill’s co-author Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stated in announcing it, “Fentanyl has poisoned the streets of our communities, including through counterfeit pills that are made to look like prescription drugs. These fake pills are often sold on social media or other online platforms to teenagers and young adults, which has worsened the substance abuse crisis. By joining our effort to raise awareness, law enforcement officers, parents and educators across the country can take proactive steps to get illicit counterfeit pills off the streets and help save lives.”
“Once fueled by prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the United States for years is now fueled primarily by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is lethal at extremely low doses. This means when illegal drug dealers mix small amounts of the drug into counterfeit pills, the risk of an overdose death rises exponentially,” added co-author Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif). “With fentanyl-related deaths climbing every year, we must do more to raise awareness of what is fueling record-high overdose deaths.”