ART BY WALLIE BUTLER

More measures needed to address fentanyl crisis

Fentanyl, a highly toxic narcotic, has increasingly become a source for concern in the Bay Area. In the ongoing fentanyl crisis, over 106 deaths from the drug were reported in Santa Clara County in the past year. To promote public health and community safety, The Campanile supports efforts by the county to stop drug misuse and urges more be done by the county to address the fentanyl problem with drug awareness education and increased funding for law enforcement.

As an opioid that is lethal in small doses, other drugs are often laced with fentanyl in powdered or pill form to increase their effect, augmenting the illegal drug problem. Legal fentanyl prescribed as a painkiller also poses an overdose threat.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the opioid overdose death rate has increased by 139% since 2018. In Santa Clara County, hospital visits from opioid overdoses have increased 57.9% in the past year. District Attorney Jeff Rosen said fentanyl causes half of all drug overdoses in the county.

To help reduce fentanyl overdoses, Santa Clara County announced the creation of a fentanyl task force in a February press release. This task force will work to stop fentanyl trafficking and increase drug awareness campaigns, an effort The Campanile supports. With both county officials and community members affected by this drug crisis, the task force is a welcome addition in the fight against drug misuse.

However, The Campanile urges more efforts to be made across the Bay Area in drug education and response efforts. Fentanyl test strips should be provided by the county and be readily available for public use so individuals can test drugs for fentanyl content. Education on the dangers of illegal drugs and opioids should also be emphasized to a greater extent in schools, for example, as a part of Living Skills. With better public education, a large number of overdoses could be avoided and lives could be saved.

While Santa Clara County has made commendable efforts by establishing a crisis response team, The Campanile also thinks more funding should be provided to law enforcement. In a fentanyl task force meeting, Sgt. Scott Williams emphasized county police departments lack narcotic testing devices in the field. To address this issue, more funding should be provided for drug testing hardware allowing police to apprehend fentanyl dealers.

When weighed with the interest of public safety and security, programs to combat the fentanyl crisis are clearly worth the cost. The Campanile urges Santa Clara County to increase drug education efforts to raise awareness and dedicate more funding to law enforcement to combat fentanyl distribution.