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San Joaquin County officials will host a town hall meeting Monday, Oct. 3, in Stockton to educate youth and families about the dangers of fentanyl, a crisis impacting the community.

The virtual and in-person fentanyl awareness meeting will be held at the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Wentworth Education Center, 2707 Transworld Drive, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Speakers at the event will discuss actions being taken to prevent and curb the crisis and a demonstration will be conducted on how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or the opioid morphine, which is typically used to treat severe pain, according to San Joaquin County Public Health Services. However, fentanyl-related overdoses are now being linked to illegally manufactured fentanyl that is mixed with other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and fake prescription pills, sometimes with or without a person’s knowledge.

Fraudulent oxycodone pills that contain fentanyl, known as “M30s” or “rainbow fentanyl,” have hit the streets all over California and have been called the “deadliest” drug in the country, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

San Joaquin County has seen a thirty-fold increase in the rate of fentanyl-related overdose deaths in a little over two years, causing people who use and experiment with illicit drugs to be more at risk of fentanyl overdose and death, according to data from the California Department of Public Health’s Opioid Surveillance Dashboard.

A chart shows the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths per 100,000 San Joaquin County residents by age group for 2021. (Source: California Department of Public Health)

“Fentanyl is one of the most critical issues impacting our community,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said. “The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is committed to combatting the fentanyl crisis with our fellow law enforcement agencies through education, awareness, prevention, and prosecution of those who distribute this lethal opioid in our county.”

San Joaquin Public Health Officer Maggie Park said more than half of the deaths related to fentanyl in the county since 2019 have been from people ages 14 to 35.

The San Joaquin County Opioid Safety Coalition, San Joaquin County Office of Education, and San Joaquin County Public Health Services will join together to provide people ages 14 to 25 and their families information and resources about the fentanyl crisis.

“It is critical that we understand the risks our young people face when it comes to opioid exposure so that we can do our part to keep Stockton youth and young adults safe,” Mayor Kevin Lincoln said.

Guests will be provided a free meal from a mobile food truck and a live stream of the town hall will be accessible from the county education office’s YouTube channel.

At the end of the event, naloxone will be distributed to attendees.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.