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Coroner responded to 317 fentanyl deaths in 2021 in San Bernardino County, prompting District Attorney to launch #ACTNOW outreach

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SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. – In response to a growing epidemic that is claiming hundreds of lives in San Bernardino County; the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has launched #ACTNOW.

In 2021, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Coroner’s Division, reported 317 Fentanyl related deaths. In 2022, The Overdose Response Team (ORT) has already responded to 104 overdose deaths.

“We recognized a need to have easily accessible education and training to not just educate, but empower our community to use their own voice to fight back against issues like the fentanyl epidemic which is negatively impacting our growth, safety, and youth.” said DA Public Affairs Officer Jacquelyn Rodriguez, “ We are at a point where action needs to be taken, not just within the criminal justice system, but most importantly in our schools and in our homes.”

The #ACTNOW (Awareness Campaign and Training) is a virtual resource hub that can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone. It offers a presentation and dedicated webpage with free and shareable training, videos, factsheets, and local contact information from organizations aimed to help slow the growing fentanyl epidemic.

This campaign is in partnership with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Overdose Response Team, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and schools across San Bernardino County.

According to the CDC, 107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022.  A staggering 67 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, with some deaths attributed to fentanyl mixed with other illicit drugs, with many users unaware they were actually taking fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said Administrator Anne Milgram. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day.”

In comparison, since the beginning of the pandemic, California has reported 10,542,434 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 96,332 confirmed deaths, according to covid19.ca.gov.

“The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is steadfast in our commitment to public safety and protecting our residents. Since 2020, we have specially trained deputies dedicated to investigating Fentanyl deaths. Fentanyl is an epidemic in communities throughout the country.” said Sheriff Shannon Dicus. “Even one life lost to Fentanyl is a tragedy.

Our Department looks forward to joining resources with the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, and the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. Ultimately, keeping our residents safe from the dangers of Fentanyl through education and awareness is essential for a healthy community.”

“Arrowhead Regional Medical Center is actively involved in stemming the tide of fentanyl in our community,” said Rodney Borger, M.D. “Our Emergency Department has so far screened and enrolled more than 1,200 patients for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and for long-term outpatient treatment. We have always been the front door to the health care system for these patients and have 24/7 access for them.

In October, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health declared a public health advisory to bring awareness to the danger of fentanyl due to a marked increase in overdose deaths in the county.

“Deaths related to opioid use, such as fentanyl, are completely preventable,” said the County’s Health Officer Dr. Michael Sequeira. “Efforts to reduce the effects of opioid overdose and death are a top priority for San Bernardino County.”

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has recently filed its second murder charge against an alleged drug dealer, for the fentanyl poisoning death of an 18-year-old Highland man in September.

The Office’s first-ever murder filing came last year against Brian Anaya – Esquivel, for his actions related to the fentanyl poisoning death of a 17-year-old in Chino Hills.

“Our Office has leaned into our partnerships with San Bernardino County Sheriff, and multiple law enforcement agencies, sharing our resources by embedding an investigator from our Bureau of Investigation into the Sheriff’s Overdose Response Team,” says District Attorney Jason Anderson. “At the rates we are seeing, if fentanyl poisoning hasn’t affected you personally, it soon will. That means every single person in this county shares a responsibility to fight the opioid crisis – a responsibility in awareness, in prevention, in response, and in holding social media, dealers, and distributors accountable.”

Visit www.sbcountyda.org/ACTNOW for the most up-to-date information and shareable presentations for your schools, organizations, or loved ones. If you would like a representative from our office to present #ACTNOW to your faculty or organization, please email publicaffairs@sbcda.org.

For an official press release, webpage, and presentation, visit our news page here.

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