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08/16/2022 02:00 PM

Madison Mom to Walk for Fentanyl Awareness

After Lisa Deane lost her son Joe to fentanyl poisoning in December 2018, she poured her grief and frustration into taking action in an effort to raise awareness of the drug’s widespread availability. The result was Demand Zero, a non-profit comprised of community volunteers working with the New Haven Police Department to combat the ever-growing opioid epidemic.

The effort to combat this crisis will culminate in a Walk for Fentanyl Awareness Day on Saturday, Aug. 20. Deane, a Madison resident and former Source Person of the Week, will join local and state leaders in the nation-wide walk on National Fentanyl Prevention & Awareness Day designed to shine a light on a seemingly unending problem.

“Our number one focus right now is to make sure children and adults are aware of the ongoing deadly dangers of fentanyl laced drugs. Sadly, around 60 percent of decedents died in a residence, their’s or someone else’s, so these are not just people dying on the streets. These are kids buying pills off of the internet on social media…thinking these are completely safe, but not understanding they are playing Russian roulette with their lives. It’s not just those are suffering a substance abuse disorder-although that is definitely still occurring,” Deane said. “We are also forgetting our older population who are now buying these products, sometimes on the street to alleviate pain and dying. It can only take half a pill in some instances to kill you.”

According to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 to 45, and more than two out of five counterfeit pills seized in 2021 contained a lethal dose of fentanyl. At that time the agency seized almost 10 million counterfeit pills, more than it had in the past two years combined. Data released by the Connecticut Department of Health show more than 520 confirmed overdose deaths in 2022, 85.4 percent of those related to fentanyl use. Compared to 2021 numbers, the state is on track to see an 11 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths.

Deane has sponsored numerous events to raise awareness about this health crisis and has also produced a short film directed at teens and young adults. The event aims to alert Connecticut communities of this largely under reported health crisis, especially in minority communities, where overdose deaths statistically are way out of proportion to the population, according to Deane.

“The stigma on this is very thick in our black and brown communities. It has been very hard to find people willing to speak publicly about this as a result, but sadly, these communities are the ones being disproportionately affected by these deaths. When you see the numbers from 2021…the number of black people dying from this versus Latino and White communities it is truly traumatizing to see these numbers,” said Deane. “Not enough of us know about how bad this is. We are lacking PSAs. We are lacking an opioid curriculum. We need to pick up the slack on this.”

Deane said the walk will highlight just how widespread and devastating the fentanyl crisis actually is.

“This is a nation-wide event. There will be events being going on from California to Puerto Rico and all points in between in the hope of making sure Americans understand how critical this issue is. We are linking arms, the suburbs, the urban areas, the rural areas…we need to all come together.” Deane said.“This is everyone’s problem in the State and we all need to start talking about it more. And not being afraid to empower our kids with knowledge, and to let them know of these dangers.”

The walk is on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. and starts at New Haven City Hall, 165 Church Street. It will continue for approximately one-mile to The Lab, an air conditioned gym, where dignitaries will speak about the crisis.

For more information contact Lisa Deana at 203-530-2339 or