San Bernardino County Behavioral Health officials have launched a countywide campaign to raise awareness about fentanyl deaths.
San Bernardino County Behavioral Health officials have launched a countywide campaign to raise awareness about fentanyl deaths. Credit: Chris Allen, VOICE

IE Voice Staff

An unprecedented number of fentanyl deaths has motivated San Bernardino County’’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to launch a countywide campaign aimed at raising awareness about the increasing number of over overdoses and poisonings caused by opioid drug. A statement on the county’s website notes the campaign will continue throughout the year, with the message “Fentanyl Doesn’t Care. But We Do.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency,  Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.

“There is a misperception that fentanyl only affects drug addicts when in reality, it’s affecting a broad segment of our community,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe. “This campaign will help shed light on the reality of the fentanyl crisis and help us save lives.”

The goal of the campaign is to educate the public on the serious dangers of fentanyl, bring awareness to the prevalence in the San Bernardino community and to equip people with information about the lifesaving resources available. 

DBH has partnered with Stop the Void and the INTO LIGHT Project to develop a media campaign that targets geographic areas in the county with a high rate of fentanyl overdoses, with a special focus on young adults and at-risk underserved communities.

DBH stressed that Fentanyl doesn’t care that you are a parent, a student, or someone experimenting with drugs for the first time. Fentanyl takes lives with no remorse. 

“It is important to have these meaningful and timely conversations about the dangers of fentanyl, with your children, friends and loved ones – before it is too late,” said DBH Director Dr. Georgina Yoshioka.

The campaign uses real stories of individuals who lost their life due to a drug overdose. Theresa Clower, Executive Director for INTO LIGHT Project, states “Sharing the stories of the loved ones in this project provides communities the opportunity to talk about the issue of stigma around substance use disorder.”

In October 2022 the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health issued a health advisory to bring attention to the dangers of fentanyl due to a marked increase of overdose deaths in the county. In 2021, there were 354 fentanyl overdose deaths countywide.

Jaime Puerta founded Stop the Void, when his only son Daniel passed away due to Fentanyl Poisoning on April 6, 2020. In the documentary Dead on Arrival, as Jaime recalls the last moments with his son Daniel, he shares “I wish someone had sat me down and had this talk with me, about what fentanyl does to people. I didn’t get that chance. You do.”

Know the signs of an overdose as it may help save a life. They can include small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”, falling asleep or losing consciousness, slow, weak, or no breathing, choking or gurgling sounds, limp body, cold and/or clammy skin, and/or discolored skin (especially in lips and nails).

If you suspect a family member or friend might have a problem with substance use, you are encouraged to speak to them about getting help. You or your family member/friend can call (800) 968-2636 to reach our Substance Use Disorder Helpline, 24-hours of the day for a free and confidential screening.For more information about the “Fentanyl Doesn’t Care. But We Do.”  campaign, visit wp.sbcounty.gov/dbh/fentanyl.