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Local agencies highlight dangers of fentanyl at Downtown event

St. Joseph News-Press - 5/8/2024

May 7—Community members rallied against fentanyl Tuesday, enjoying games and food while sharing resources and learning about how to protect young people from drugs.

The City of St. Joseph Health Department, Buchanan County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and other local agencies came together to help host the second annual "Make Some Noise" event for National Fentanyl Awareness Day.

The event at Coleman Hawkins Park featured young performers showcasing their talents along with guest speakers who talked about the dangers that the opioid poses to many in the U.S.

Last year, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 70,000 Americans fatally overdosed on illegally made fentanyl.

Eric Stone, a substance use counselor at the Family Guidance Center, said they host events like this because of the concerning number of people overdosing on opioids that aren't legally made.

"A few years ago, we had a pandemic of a lot of people overdosing and dying as fentanyl was introduced into our community," he said. "And it only got worse. I know we've had fewer overdoses this year, but I think that's because events like this bring awareness that these are people suffering with a disease, disorder, or maybe just being naive to what they're taking. They're not just criminals."

According to the St. Joseph Health Department, overdose deaths in Buchanan County fell from 42 to 28 in 2023, but data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years among teenagers.

While health experts are glad to see overdose death numbers decrease, they say it will take continuous education geared toward the youth to solve the overdose concern in young kids.

"I'm a person in long-term recovery myself and I know that whenever I was younger using any of those substances, there just was no care in the world," Stone said. "I always thought an overdose can't happen to me and that it only happened to people outside of my circle, but that's not the truth. It can happen to anybody and we have to teach our children and teens to not take street drugs even if it's from a friend."

Jenna Wilson can be reached at jenna.wilson@newspressnow.com.

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