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The opioid epidemic is considered the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history. The Trump Administration recently declared a public health emergency to deal with the epidemic. In Nevada, opioid overdoses were the leading cause of drug-related deaths in 2015. According to the National Vital Statistics System, 619 Nevadans died of a drug overdose that year and 68% of those deaths were from opioids.In this series, Reno Public Radio’s health reporter Anh Gray tours a treatment facility, and talks with substance abuse experts, patients and others to get the scope of the problem and explore some solutions.

Fentanyl-Related Deaths On The Rise In Washoe County

A generic fentanyl transdermal patch, with a release rate of 12mcg per hour, applied to the skin (cropped).jpg" by DanielTahar is licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0
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Five years ago, Fentanyl-related deaths in Washoe County were nearly unheard of. But between 2019 and 2020, the number of deaths due to Fentanyl overdoses has risen from 25 to 55.

A number of local agencies are teaming up on a county-wide campaign to raise awareness of the risk of Fentanyl abuse. The Washoe County Human Services Agency is among those groups. Jessica Goicoechea is a mental health counselor supervisor for the agency. 

“Washoe County, along with all of our partnering agencies and the Sheriff's office all recognize that this is a big deal. So we're all just working together to figure out the best ways to share with our community how important it is to talk to each other and be aware that fentanyl can be in any substance that is purchased illegally,” said Goicoechea.

One goal of the campaign is to educate community members on the use of Naloxone, which can overturn an opioid overdose.

“There's an actual Naloxone finder on the NV opioid response.org website, where you can actually look and do a training on Naloxone, get a better idea of how it's used, [and] why it's important. And then also actually find places that you can physically go and pick it up in our community.”

Goicoechea says Fentanyl does not discriminate and this trend is affecting people of all ages, classes and races.

Isaac Hoops is a senior studying at the Reynolds School of Journalism. 

Isaac Hoops is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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