DA holds focus group meetings for fentanyl awareness effort

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

District Attorney General Ken Baldwin is visiting students across several counties this week to learn more about their knowledge of prescription medication abuse, as well as general awareness of fentanyl.

Four focus groups, composed of eight to 12 student representatives from local high schools, are meeting this week with the DA.

Students in Johnson County met with Baldwin Monday, and students in Carter and Unicoi counties met with the DA Tuesday. He will meet with students in Washington County today.

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Drug overdoses involving fentanyl have increased exponentially in Tennessee over the past several years. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid used for managing severe pain, is around 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often illegally sold on the streets disguised as heroin, where users unknowingly take too much and ultimately overdose.

While the use of fentanyl has increased, awareness of the drug has not.

General Baldwin, along with the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference (TNDAGC), is heavily focused on fighting the abuse of fentanyl and other drugs, as well as educating Tennesseans about the dangers of these substances. Input and feedback from these focus groups will be used for a fentanyl-awareness effort geared toward Tennesseans that will launch in summer 2020.

“It is important to start the conversation on fentanyl with young students,” said General Baldwin.  “We want to raise awareness and educate students on the dangers of fentanyl and the lasting impact it can have on the community. These focus groups will help to guide our campaign on fentanyl in order to provide the community and Tennesseans with as much accurate and helpful information as possible.”

“Our goals for this effort, and for all of our public education efforts, are to get in front of our community members and share helpful information,” said Jerry Estes, executive director of TNDAGC. “After researching and planning, we recognized the glaring absence of fentanyl-related information available in Tennessee and beyond. We know this effort can save lives, and we are thankful to our communities for engaging with us and sharing their thoughts and concerns.”

The TNDAGC also wants to invite everyone to provide input on this effort. Anyone interested can do so by taking a quick survey. All responses are completely anonymous. Survey responses are due by March 20. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TNDAGC2020