EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Two years ago, presenting in front of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly, with statistical data, called the effect of fentanyl on our community “a crisis.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat patients with chronic severe pain or pain following surgery. It is similar to morphine, but about 100 times more potent.

During his 2020 presentation, Kelly was citing more than a dozen fentanyl-related deaths. By the end of the year, that number climbed to 47. The number more than doubled a year later, with 99 deaths attributed to Fentanyl.

“Fentanyl causes death like all other opioids by suppressing your central nervous system resulting in sedation, unconsciousness, and suppression of respiratory drive,” Dr. Kelly told FOX21 then. “It essentially causes you to fall asleep and stops your breathing.”

In addition to the 99 accidental Fentanyl-related deaths, the Coroner has noted two Fentanyl-related suicides, bringing the total lives lost to Fentanyl in our community to 101.

Even more concerning, in some respects, is the young age of some of those victims. In 2021, five children were killed by the drug. They were ages 1, 5, 15, and two 17-year-old.

In one 2022 Colorado Springs case, a teenager overdosed on fentanyl and died. Court records show his mother provided him the money to buy the pills and connected him and his friends to the people selling the drugs.

And, according to a release from the District Attorney’s Office, that shift to a younger population is due in part to the current pill form that is easily trafficked and ingested, its widespread contamination of other drugs of abuse, its high toxicity even in small amounts, and its pervasiveness in the community.

Unfortunately, the release stated, if these trends continue through the first quarter of 2022, we are on pace to eclipse last year’s total with over 100 deaths – including two minors to day.

With assistance from the El Paso County Public Health Department’s Office of Data and Analytics, fentanyl death maps based on El Paso County Coroner data have been created to identify hot spots of fentanyl use.

Cluster map representing fentanyl deaths based on zip codes.
Heat map based on addresses that indicate density of fentanyl-related deaths.

The incidence maps above show the locations at which people were found after overdosing, or where they were picked up for treatment before ultimately passing away.

The District Attorney’s office noted the maps could suggest areas of investment in prevention including education and outreach to potential victims, as well as increased efforts against trafficking.

Good Samaritan Law

If you are with someone who overdoses, even if you are the person who sold or gave them the drug that caused the overdose, a law in Colorado protects you if you call for help.

The 911 Good Samaritan Law was passed as part of Colorado’s Harm Reduction Legislation. It also grants immunity for the person who is overdosing.

Law enforcement officers are also equipped with Naxolone and Narcan, which are used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, and are also available to the general public.

Third-Party Naxolone, also part of the state’s Harm Reduction Legislation, protects from prosecution anyone who administers Naxolone in “good faith”.

Where to get help

Colorado Crisis Services
Colorado Treatment Services
Peaks Recovery Centers
Recovery Unlimited