PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Clackamas County health officials and local prevention partners issued a public health advisory this week to parents given the increased prevalence and rising youth use of opioids and fentanyl.
Public health officials are reporting a sustained increase in overdoses driven largely by fentanyl found in illicit pills and powders.
Teens and youth are specifically being targeted online, as social media platforms are increasingly used to buy and sell drugs, many of which are counterfeit and produced with fentanyl.
“There is no time to wait,” said Philip Mason-Joyner, the director of the Clackamas County Public Health Division, said on Tuesday. “It’s time to have the conversation about these pills. It matters to all of us. It impacts our entire community.”
If children need medication or support, Mason-Joyner added, parents should tell kids to get those from a trusted health care provider and not from friends or someone in else the community.
He said that students might seek pills to help them study for a stressful exam or general anxiety.
“You can delay this conversation… but it puts at risk the possibility of a young one getting lost to this crisis, and we’re doing all we can to prevent that from happening,” noted Mason-Joyner.
County officials say they have touched base with all the school districts in their area with more than 100 schools in Clackamas County.
Dr. Sarah Present, a Clackamas County Health Officer, told KOIN 6 News that the most pressing issue for her is the amount of fentanyl in these counterfeit pills that people are unaware of.
“Fentanyl is easy to manufacture,” said Present. “It’s very cheap, so you can manufacture pills maybe look like a Xanax and it’s actually fentanyl.”
The county looks at data from the medical examiner’s office for drug overdose deaths.
Present added that fentanyl is the main driver in the increase of those deaths with “data that suggests fentanyl is a big driver of non-fatal overdoses,” as well. Hospitalization has increased 20% in Clackamas County in the past couple of years, according to officials.
“I support schools having naloxone in their first aid kits as they do epinephrine for unknown anaphylaxis or due to allergy, as they do have AEDs — automated external defibrillators — for people who have a cardiac event on campus. Naloxone is the same, it’s good to have there,” she said.
County officials told KOIN 6 News that they are seeing overdoses already on a trajectory to be greater than last year. They are trying to sound the alarm to prevent more deaths in the community.
What will be done in the future?
Clackamas County plans to expand its existing opioid overdose prevention programs, along with forming partnerships with organizations that know local along with primary care clinics.