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Our new campaign confronts the youth fentanyl crisis in Pierce County

Fentanyl is tasteless. It’s odorless. You can’t tell what it is by looking at it. 

Yet the synthetic opioid is the root of the most daunting crisis threatening youth in Pierce County. 

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury deaths in Pierce County. It’s the second leading cause of injury deaths for people 15-24 years old.

And fentanyl is a big reason why. From Jan. 2020-June 2022, more than 60 young people under the age of 24 died from fentanyl in Pierce County. And another 342 young people under 25 visited emergency departments for drug poisoning.  

Our chance to protect Pierce County youth from overdose.

In late 2020, the Pierce County Council passed a one-tenth of 1% sales tax to help improve behavioral health. Some of that money went to fund the youth fentanyl prevention campaign we’re launching on behalf of Tacoma-Pierce County Opioid Task Force.

We’re excited to help with this incredibly important work.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll run ads on social media platforms young people use often like Twitch, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. You might also come across ads on billboards, TV, radio, streaming, online or in movie theaters. And we’ll message directly to youth and people who care about them at schools and community events.

Our ads will ask youth to learn the facts about fentanyl. We launched a new website, FentanylFacts.org, that offers important info, data, resources and tools to help youth to stay safer if they decide to use drugs. 

For the next couple weeks, the website will also offer a chance for youth-serving organizations to apply for grants. We’re funding eight community contracts for fentanyl prevention messages by youth, for youth. We aren’t using Pierce County Behavioral Health Tax to fund these grants.

Youth will have a chance to craft helpful fentanyl messages, then use them on meaningful projects like:

  • A youth leadership project. 
  • A community or school education campaign. 
  • An event you plan or host.  
  • Another idea organizations propose.

Visit FentanylFacts.org/contracts to learn more about the grants. We’ll review and approve them on a rolling basis through Sept. 15.

Harm reduction: A tried and true public health tool.

It’s never safe for youth to use illicit drugs. But unfortunately, we know some do—and in the age of fentanyl, far too many of them overdose.

That’s why our campaigns and website offer ways youth can stay safer if they use drugs. In public health, we call it harm reduction. 

We make sure youth know it’s only safe to use drugs prescribed by your doctor. We also help them understand they can stay safer when they:

  • Use test strips.  
  • Carry naloxone.  
  • Don’t use alone. 
  • Or, best of all, don’t use in the first place. 

Know the facts. Share the facts.

Fentanyl is different from other drugs in important ways. For instance, did you know:

Fentanyl is massively strong. It’s as much as 50 times stronger than heroin. An amount as small as 2 grains of salt can cause an overdose.

It’s hard to know if fentanyl is in your drug. And even if you trust your supplier, you don’t know who handled the drug before they did. Drugs change hands many times before they get to you.

Fentanyl can be mixed into other drugs like pills, meth, cocaine or molly. People who make or sell drugs often mix it in to make the drug stronger at less cost to them.

A pill or line may have no fentanyl but another from the same batch may have a dangerous amount. When people make or sell drugs and mix in fentanyl, it doesn’t spread evenly throughout the batch.

We need your help making sure our young residents understand why fentanyl is different so they can know why they should stay safer—and how. Visit FentanylFacts.org to learn more, apply for a grant, or share our social media messages.

Fentanyl has harmed far too many young people in Pierce County in recent years. Be aware. Take care.

UPDATED: 09/01/2023