ARIZONA, USA — The numbers are heart wrenching. More than 2,000 Arizonans lost their lives to opioid overdoses in 2021 alone, with fentanyl being the most reported drug in opioid overdoses. Community leaders are working to combat the effects of the drug.
“We had at least three parents who had lost their kids to fentanyl deaths,” said Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, sharing the tragic reality of how destructive the use of the deadly drug fentanyl can be.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “The horror of thinking things were okay, and having your kid go to bed and you wake up and your kid’s not up and you find your own child dead in his or her own bed…. I can’t even wrap my head around that.”
Mitchell is one of many Arizona leaders including, Congressman Greg Stanton, County Supervisor Jack Sellers and Tempe Councilman Joel Navarro who met with families at this recent fentanyl threat forum at McClintock High School in Tempe, to learn directly from students, how to keep their loved ones safe from the deadly drug.
“We’ve been at different high schools throughout Maricopa County to educate both parents and kids about the deadly dangers that fentanyl presents to our community,” said Mitchell.
Leaders from the Tempe Police Department and Tempe Union High School District were also in attendance.
Since 2015, Maricopa County has seen a 5,000% spike in the number of fentanyl-related deaths. In some cases, the amount of fentanyl detected in a single counterfeit pill can be up to one million times more powerful than what a doctor might legitimately prescribe for a medical procedure.
“We’ve seen such an increase in overdoses, the potency of the pills and people just need to know,” she said. “They can’t afford to not know about this.”
The nonprofit Tempe Coalition was on hand at the event, distributing free Narcan to people in the community, a tool to aid in the fight against fentanyl overdose.
The reality is hard to hear.
“This doesn’t happen to bad kids. It happens to everybody… the whole range of socioeconomic people,” said Mitchell.
But the tools and resources shared are empowering in the effort to fight the destructive effects of fentanyl on families and communities.
“Your kid is susceptible to this,” she said. “It’s cheap… it’s easy to get… it can masquerade as other types of pills and you just have to know about it as a parent.”
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