Drug overdose deaths increase in Fresno County

Amanda Aguilar Image
Thursday, September 1, 2022
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Fresno County law enforcement and health leaders are raising awareness of what's becoming a growing problem in our area.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Wednesday, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day.

Fresno County law enforcement and health leaders are raising awareness of what's becoming a growing problem in our area.

While methamphetamine remains an issue, county leaders are also concerned about the use of fentanyl.

"Frankie had six times the lethal dose of fentanyl in his system," recalled Elaine Hudson.

The mother of three lost her 20-year-old son more than two years ago after he bought what he thought were Xanax pills.

"The Xanax pill he took was mostly fentanyl, aspirin and Unisom," she said.

The use of fentanyl, most of the time unknowingly, is spreading across Fresno County.

Deaths from the drug have dramatically increased in the past four years.

In 2018, there were two fentanyl overdose deaths. In 2022, so far, 25 deaths.

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Dr. Rais Vohra sees more and more people coming into Community Regional Medical Center's ER experiencing an overdose, and sometimes dying from it.

"If you have a stereotype in your mind about what a drug addict might look like or what somebody struggling with drugs looks like, I would say delete that immediately," said Dr. Vohra. "These stereotypes are not actually applying to what we're seeing."

According to Dr. Vohra, there are three categories of people struggling with substance use.

  • People who don't know what they're buying and taking-- majority are young people
  • Those struggling with chronic pain and start to rely on opioids
  • People who are knowingly addicted to drugs

"No matter where somebody is in that spectrum, we have different needs and resources that we can bring to their care, as long as they seek us and find us," Dr. Vohra said.

CRMC is making efforts to raise awareness about drug overdoses and treatment.

On Wednesday, the hospital passed out free NARCAN nasal sprays and demonstrated how to use it on someone possibly overdosing -- which can save their life.

The county's behavioral health department also provides treatment resources and works to raise awareness of the issue.

Ahmad Bahrami said drug overdoses will eventually impact everyone in the community.

"It's really important to view it as a health and safety issue," he said.

Health leaders are also working with local law enforcement to reduce overdose deaths -- before new drugs end up on Fresno County streets.

"Methamphetamine used to be the big issue. Now fentanyl is the big emerging issue," said Sheriff Margaret Mims. "In the next few years, it can be something else."

County leaders agree this isn't a battle for one person or group. Local, state and federal leaders, plus the community, need to take action together to prevent more overdose deaths from happening.

Resources:

www.recoverfresno.com has information on substance use treatment. It has the provider directory, numbers to call for screening and treatment referral. It has links and other info for accessing treatment services.

www.opioidsafefresno.com has info on opioids, Narcan/Naloxone, some tips/dangers and where to find/obtain Naloxone.

www.havethetalkfresno.com was developed with local youth input which provides tips for parents/care takers on how to talk about substance use with their child.