West Hawaiʻi Community Health Center, the county and Nā Leo TV are partnering to host Hawaiʻi Island’s first fentanyl awareness summit in an effort to educate the public on the synthetic opioid and its link to a rise in drug overdoses in the community.
The summit is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The public is invited to stream the summit online for free. Click here to pre-register for the event. For more information on the summit, click here.
The summit is set to start at 10 a.m. and will include a panel of local experts. Speakers will be Mayor Mitch Roth, 3rd Circuit Judge Wendy DeWeese, Hawaiʻi State Epidemiologist Dr. Dan Galnis, Lokahi Treatment Center’s Lead Counselor Verna Chartrand and local addiction medical specialist Dr. Kevin Kunz and others.
The panel will present information on fentanyl, build awareness on the drug and answer audience questions.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is being diverted for abuse. According to WHCHC, the drug is mixed with other drugs, like street Xanax and party drugs without users’ knowledge. A lethal dose of fentanyl is very small, sometimes only the size of a few grains of sand.
WHCHC reports overdose deaths have increased by 200% by March of last year. Most of those deaths were fentanyl-associated. Recovery of fentanyl in police investigations also continue to rise. Last summer, Hawaiʻi police responded to a condo on Aliʻi Drive and found evidence of suspected fentanyl being extracted from patches. Two adults were arrested and their three children were placed with Child Protective Services.
HPD has nearly doubled the number of officers in their narcotics and vice unit in Kona recently and they’re reporting recovering fentanyl almost on a daily basis.