GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – A number of organizations from across Mesa County are raising awareness about the dangers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in a new initiative.
Voices for Awareness, a Grand Junction-based nonprofit, focuses on tackling the issue in the community. It is sharing more on why the community needs to respond to what organizers describe as a growing problem of fentanyl use. The Grand Junction Police Department has outlined the steps it is taking to address the issue.
”It’s like playing Russian roulette,” explained Voices for Awareness co-founder Andrea Thomas. She helped start the organization after the dangers posed by fentanyl hit her family personally in June 2018. “It’s affecting unsuspecting people, first time users, and it’s the potency of fentanyl is so very addictive it’s like a drug we’ve never seen before.”
Her daughter Ashley lost her life because of fentanyl poisoning.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, just a small dose can be lethal. Community Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Tobin explained that, “because fentanyl’s so potent, [comparing] equal amounts of fentanyl versus heroin, you’re looking at 50, up to 100-times more potent.” The hospital is collaborating on the awareness initiative,
Voices for Awareness is also partnering with Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland (R) to help get its initiative off the ground.
Rowland detailed that, ”they’re gonna be doing focus groups, three to four focus groups, with people from different ages to determine if they’ve ever used fentanyl, if they’ve ever been around anyone who has, what their motivations were for doing it, and what might have stopped them from doing it. Maybe they had a loved-one who used it and maybe died or didn’t from it. So trying to really understand why people might use it, and what might be the best message to get them to not.”
The goal: equip the community with knowledge and prevent fentanyl use in the first place.
“Not all of the deaths that we have seen are overdoses. Many are poisonings. And there’s a difference in an unsuspecting person is using a pill… that they’re not aware [that] fentanyl is in, and they die, you know, immediately from this drug, that’s a poisoning.”
Deadly amounts of fentanyl can be hidden in illicit drugs that resemble prescriptions such as oxycodone.
Other partners involved in this effort include the 21st Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein (R), the Western Colorado Drug Task Force, which is made up of members from the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa Co. Sheriff’s Office, and Mesa Co. Public Health.
If interested in participating in one of the focus groups, Voices for Awareness can be reached at email@example.com.