Since March 2020, when Covid-19 first altered our daily lives, public health officials warned of a potential surge in drug overdoses. Experts feared the pandemic could produce conditions that would further increase overdoses and deaths, such as social isolation, higher rates of anxiety and other mental health concerns, and disrupted access to addiction treatment and recovery supports.
Unfortunately, these predictions have been realized. For example, provisional data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate that there were a record 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, the highest number of fatal drug overdoses ever recorded in the US. Approximately ¾ of these overdose deaths were due to opioids, primarily fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent and is being unleashed by bad actors into the black-market drug supply.
“We have to let people know that fentanyl is here -it’s deadly in minute quantities, it can be invisible, and is being added to a wider variety of recreational and illicit drugs than ever before,” says Dr. Beth Fishman, Manager of Addiction Services at JCFS Chicago. In order to inform Chicago’s Jewish community and thereby reduce the harm fentanyl can cause, Beth and her team, along with staff from JCFS Response for Teens, wrote three Fentanyl Alerts: for the general population, for parents, and for youth. The Fentanyl Alerts serve to educate individuals, families, and community organizations about fentanyl and suggest safeguarding steps. The Fentanyl Alerts have been widely distributed to synagogues, Jewish schools, camps, other Jewish communal organizations, and the community atlarge. The alerts can be found on JCFS.org. What can you do? Share these alerts with your loved ones and your communities. Tell your friends, neighbors, and networks. If you have children, talk to them often about making safe, healthy decisions when it comes to drug use.
JCFS’ addiction services is now partnering with Live4Lali, a local nonprofit, to provide community training about fentanyl and how to use the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone (brand name Narcan). Live4Lali was founded by a Jewish family who lost their son to opioid overdose; the organization’s mission includes reducing all harm associated with substance use. To that end, many resources are provided that promote prevention, safety, and self-efficacy. “We are thrilled to work with JCFS Chicago to provide fentanyl trainings,” said Laura Fry, Executive Director of Live4Lali.
“We want people to know they can turn to us. Addiction is a Jewish issue, and recovery is real; we are here to help,” adds Beth.
JCFS addiction services supports individuals and families struggling with addiction and in recovery and works with Jewish organizations to create compassionate responses to addiction’s many challenges. Contact us if you have specific concerns about your own or a loved one’s drug use or other addictive behavior, or to schedule a community education program: BethFishman@JCFS.org or 855.275.5237.