New Task Force to Address Drug Addiction, Fentanyl Deaths
A new partnership between the county and two health care organizations is taking on the issues of drug addiction and growing numbers of fentanyl overdoses on the Big Island.
Hawaiʻi County, Bay Clinic and the West Hawaiʻi Community Health Center have formed the Hawaiʻi Island Fentanyl Task Force. The task force is led by Dr. Kimo Alameda and is working to bring widespread awareness and knowledge about the dangers of fentanyl.
“We’re partnering with these health centers to help prevent overdose deaths in our community,” Mayor Mitch Roth said in a press release. “The most powerful weapon against any epidemic is education, and we are committed to educating our residents so that they can make informed choices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine, and a tiny amount can be fatal. It is mixed into fake pain pills and other drugs, such as Xanax, without the users’ knowledge.
“Fentanyl is the most addictive and potent opioid and the deadliest drug America has ever known,” addiction medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Kunz said in the press release. “According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, this synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times stronger than any other opioid out there. It’s more potent than cyanide.”
According to Kunz, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics indicate the leading cause of death for Americans 18-45 years old is overdose. A recent example is the death of 37-year-old University of Hawaiʻi football star Colt Brennan, who was found to have a combination of methamphetamine, alcohol and fentanyl in his system.
“We are planning to bring up-to-date information on the facts, prevention and treatment to residents utilizing virtual and in-person presentations,” Jane Clement, the mayor’s executive assistant, said in the press release. “Our local experts have organized a 30-minute presentation targeting all ages about the dangers of initiating drug use, addiction and fentanyl poisoning.”
The upcoming presentations will be conducted as follows:
- 5:30-6:30 p.m. June 9 at the West Hawaiʻi Civic Center Council Chambers.
- 5:30-6:30 p.m. June 16 at the Pāhala Community Center.
- 5:30-6:30 p.m. June 23 at Tutu’s House in Waimea.
- 5-6 p.m. June 30 at the Puueo Community Center in Hilo.
Seating is limited. Anyone interested in attending a presentation in person is asked to contact Alameda at [email protected].