Facing Fentanyl

by Joe Timmerman and Leslie Ostronic

Joe Hern died unexpectedly in 2017 after overdosing on cocaine laced with fentanyl. He was the youngest of five siblings, a father of two children and a former Columbus police officer.

“When you lose someone to fentanyl you are losing more than that person, you’re losing everything that person could have been, that person would have been,” Jim Hern, Joe’s older brother, says.

In 2019, 76% of overdose deaths in Ohio involved fentanyl, and nearly one-fourth were a mix of fentanyl and cocaine, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Due to the rise of fentanyl’s role in overdoses in Ohio and across the United States, stories like Joe’s have multiplied.

In 2021, fentanyl was the No. 1 cause of death for Americans age 18 to 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the fentanyl crisis worsens, organizations such as Harm Reduction Ohio, the state’s largest distributor of naloxone, are on the front lines fighting for a better future. “Every single one of those people deserved a chance to live and lost it,” Shae Dalrymple, the Communication Director at HRO, says.

We spent our 2022 spring semester at Ohio University making this documentary, “Facing Fentanyl.” This 7-minute film looks at how fentanyl’s new wave of harm is affecting Ohio today as the fentanyl crisis continues to expand beyond heroin.

Find resources at harmreductionohio.org and findtreatment.gov or call the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services 24/7 Careline at 1-800-720-9616.

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