AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Today marks the second annual National Fentanyl Awareness Day.

A local behavioral health clinic is doing its part to educate the community. 

Serenity Behavioral Health holds its first fentanyl awareness event during National Prevention Week.

Officials say overdoses are trending upward and their goal is to make it stop. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. While approved for pharmaceutical use in pain regulation, officials say there is an increase in the illegal production of the drug. 

It is often laced into other drugs.

“It’s being pressed in these pills and our kids are dying from it,” said Cyndi Taylor, Program Director of Addictive Disease Services. “And we need to educate the community about it so we can save a life, hopefully.”

The CDC reports synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased 18 times from 2013 to 2020.

“Drug overdoses on the news or in the media or wherever we see it,” said Chuck Williamson, CEO of Serenity Behavioral Health Systems. “We don’t really know what the source of it is, but I can tell you right now fentanyl is a big part of that.” 

“Increasing numbers that we’ve seen over time- they seem to escalate and get larger and larger,” said Williamson. “And we can’t have that. We’ve got to get together and see if we can stop this trend.”

The event also provided a demonstration on Narcan, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.

“We always say give the medication first and call for help later because the medication is the difference between life and death,”said Dolly McCurry, a volunteer at Georgia Overdose Prevention. “You’re going to take this out of this blister pack- try to have them on their back- and just put this in their nostril and press this button.” 

It’s been more than ten years since Timothy Stephens used drugs or alcohol.

“Others were expressing that, when they apply recovery principles in their lives, they found that they were not miserable anymore,” said Stephens, a certified peer support specialist of addictive diseases. “And I just didn’t want to be miserable anymore.” 

From there, he said started a new way of living.

He worked as recovery support in emergency rooms in North Georgia and is now forming a recovery nonprofit of his own.

“You have the power inside,” said Stephens. “And all we have to do is focus on that power on the inside to make the changes that you want for a better way of living.”   

“People need to reach out,” said Williamson. “And never be ashamed of having an issue. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Williamson tells us that Serenity Behavioral Health will be expanding to add a crisis center in the coming years. The 12-million dollar project was signed into effect by Governor Kemp.