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Protecting our youth with facts about fentanyl

Just over 3 years ago, Pierce County Council passed a 0.1% sales tax to fund work to improve Behavioral Health in our community.

They did so as more people and more younger people were dying of fentanyl overdose at heartbreaking rates. January 2020–June 2022, 60 people under age 24 died of fentanyl overdose in Pierce County. And fentanyl was involved in another 342 drug-poisoning-related emergency visits.

Tacoma-Pierce County Opioid Task Force gave us funds to create and run a youth fentanyl prevention campaign last year.

Public health at its best.

This work is an example of what public health does best: Confront big health threats to our most vulnerable neighbors. In this case, that’s youth at risk of fentanyl overdose.

We used approaches honed during our award-winning responses to complex public health threats, like COVID-19 and mpox, to partner with the community and reach our youth. We:

  • Talked face-to-face with people in our community.
  • Gathered local data to learn more about the youth who need help.
  • Asked local youth to help develop messages.
  • Educated youth about fentanyl and how to make decisions that reduce harm.
  • Worked closely with local groups that work with youth.

Reaching youth where they are—millions of times.

You probably saw our fentanyl facts messages—especially if you’re a younger person. In a few short months, we launched a campaign that drew 25.45 million ad impressions and 75,000 visits to our new fentanlyfacts.org website.

We ran the ads where kids go online, including:

  • TikTok.
  • Instagram.
  • Twitch.
  • Spotify.
  • Hulu.
  • Disney+.

We also ran them in movie theaters and on traditional media like billboards, radio, and TV.

And we went out into the community to spread the word in person. We visited 28 Pierce County events and connected with more than 2,400 people.

We joined local radio station Movin’ 92.5 at the King of the Hill football game between Rogers and Puyallup High Schools. ​Host Brooke Fox talked to the crowd about fentanyl at halftime.​ We talked with more than 700 youth, parents, teachers, and community members.​ We gave out promotional items and threw t-shirts into the crowd. It was a great way to connect with our community.

Supporting local helpers

With separate Health Department funding, we awarded $5,000 grants to 8 youth-serving organizations for creative projects to support the campaign. They used our fentanyl messages in projects that were meaningful to them—like short films, posters, a podcast, mentoring, even a Health Sovereignty gathering!

Grants went to:

  • Clover Park School District.
  • Innovative Change Makers.
  • Multicultural Child and Family Hope Center.
  • OURChurch Foundation.
  • Priceless Inspiration Foundation.
  • Recovery Cafe Orting Valley.
  • Tahoma Indian Center.
  • Therapy Fund Foundation.

You can see many of their fantastic projects at FentanylFacts.org/contracts.

What’s next?

Our work on this campaign was a constant reminder of fentanyl’s unique danger and how much work we all have left. Fentanyl presents an ongoing threat to our youth that we must work together to confront.

Though our funding for the campaign ran out at the end of 2023, we’re still looking for ways to continue  FentanylFacts.org and run the ads again, if funded.

Follow our social media accounts and sign up for the Your Reliable Source blog for regular updates on this and other important public health topics.

Fentanyl is a strong opioid—as much as 50 times stronger than heroin.

An amount as small as 2 grains of salt can cause an overdose. And it can be mixed into other drugs like pills, meth, cocaine, or molly without you knowing because you can’t taste or smell it.

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

That’s why our messaging offers 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 don’t use in the first place.

Learn more at FentanylFacts.org.