WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — More than 107,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022, according to the CDC.

67% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is why we here at KFDX are hoping to educate others about this issue with a special show Tuesday night, October 4.

One weekend in September, three lives were lost to fentanyl. But it hasn’t just been those three people who have died from this drug in our area.

In fact, this year we’ve seen more than 20 fentanyl-related deaths reported in Wichita Falls, including a 13-year-old.

“All I know is my baby laid dead on that floor with people walking around him and didn’t call out for help,” the mother of 13-year-old Kaysen Villarreal, Brandi Melo, said in a previous interview with us.

Villarreal lost his life due to fentanyl on September 18, 2022, but he’s not the only one.

In fact, the amount of fentanyl-related incidents we’ve seen in the area recently is more than Wichita Falls Police Sergeant Charlie Eipper has seen in any year in his nearly 30 years on the force.

“I remember we worked a few overdoses where they were typically heroin users that were lacing their heroin with a little bit of fentanyl, some people who ate fentanyl out of patches and so forth, but the deaths, I don’t remember so many deaths occurring from the overdoses like we’re having this year,” Eipper said.

To crack down on this issue, the Wichita County District Attorney’s office is revisiting recent overdose cases in hopes of charging the dealer with potential felony murder.

In total, there have been three fentanyl-related murder charges with more potentially on the way, but that’s not the only thing they are doing.

“Just the continued investigation on how it’s getting here, how we can stop the supply, how can we stop the distribution,” Eipper said. “The other thing, too, is just making people aware of it. We are doing a lot of presentations right now, getting to the schools, middle school-level students, secondary students, middle school, and high school.”

Substance Use Director at Helen Farabee Brad Fisk said this drug is a little different than other opioids they have experienced.

“Some of the real big difference is it’s so much more powerful,” Fisk said. “It’s 100 times more powerful than heroin. So, when people start taking it, they become addicted to it a lot quicker. Of course, it’s a lot more dangerous for overdose.”

Fisk said his staff has seen more people coming in with an addiction to fentanyl.

“I couldn’t tell you the number of people that I’ve admitted either into outpatient-type treatments or in-patient type treatments over just this past month,” Fisk said.

In the end, local law enforcement, those with Helen Farabee and the families of those who have lost a loved one to this dangerous drug hope to bring awareness to how serious this issue is, so another life isn’t taken far too soon.

“Don’t take nothing from nobody, not even your friends,” Melo said in a previous interview with us.