By Antonio Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer


A free community “Fentanyl Awareness Safety Fair” will be held by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Sacramento County Department of Health Services and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Services.

The event is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 6, on the north lawn of the State Capitol. 

Narcan demonstrations, free Narcan kits, 25-plus community organization resources and gift card giveaways are on the agenda but the main focus is to bring awareness to an epidemic that is greatly affecting the Black community.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. Like morphine, it is a medicine that is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery.

Speakers include Behavioral Health Services Director Dr. Ryan Quist, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert, Sacramento County Board Supervisors Rich Desmond and Patrick Kennedy, and surviving family members.

The safety fair is part of a countywide “1 Pill Can Kill” fentanyl awareness campaign to alert the community about the epidemic of fentanyl-related deaths, based in large part on counterfeit prescription pills which contain fentanyl.

The national fentanyl epidemic has hit the Sacramento community, the Sacramento County Department of Health Services warns. People in Sacramento are now dying from fentanyl poisoning at higher rates than firearm-related homicides. The tragic deaths affect all backgrounds and age groups – starting with young kids.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has been increasingly identified in drug overdose deaths, according to a March 2019 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC report describes trends in drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl by demographic characteristics and geographic regions from 2011 through 2016. 

The report found, among other trends, that fentanyl-related death rates nationwide have risen fastest among Black and Hispanic populations from 2011 through 2017.

African Americans had the largest annual percentage increase in rates from 2011 through 2016 (140.6% per year), followed by Latinos (118.3% per year). Rates for White persons were greater than other subgroups throughout the study period. 

The Sacramento County DA’s Crime Lab, which tests all narcotics seized by local law enforcement agencies, found that 97% of pills on the street are counterfeit. Of those pills, 97% contained fentanyl. 

The Crime Lab is discovering an alarming rate of counterfeit Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax and Adderall pills – which are all virtually impossible to distinguish from a prescription pill.