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New data reveals magnitude of fentanyl crisis in Turlock, Stanislaus County
Law enforcement throughout the Central Valley have seen an uptick in arrests along the Highway 99 corridor after stopping vehicles that were later found to be carrying large quantities of the counterfeit pills that were in fact fentanyl. San Joaquin County deputies discovered as many as 20,000 fentanyl pills during a stop in Ripon last year that were disguised in hair gel containers (Photo contributed).

New preliminary data has been shared by the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services detailing the severity of the fentanyl crisis in Turlock and Stanislaus County as a whole.


According to the BHRS, out of the 156 drug-related deaths in the county, 113 – or 72% – were due to fentanyl. Fourteen of the county’s fentanyl-related deaths took place in Turlock. Tony Vartan, Stanislaus County BHRS director, says that these statistics are all-time highs for both the city and the county.


While the distribution of fentanyl has been an issue for communities across the nation, the crisis is one that especially hits home in California.


According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the organization seized over 379 million deadly doses of fentanyl throughout the nation in 2022, which are enough doses to kill more than the entire country’s population twice (332 million residents). Not only that, but the majority of those doses were seized in California (28,765 pounds).


DEA Administrator Anne Milgran praised the organization’s efforts in a press release while providing some context as to why California has become a hotspot for fentanyl smuggling and distribution.


“These seizures – enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every American – reflect DEA’s unwavering commitment to protect Americans and save lives, by tenaciously pursuing those responsible for the trafficking of fentanyl across the United States,” Milgram said. “DEA’s top operational priority is to defeat the two Mexican drug cartels—the Sinaloa and Jalisco (CJNG) Cartels—that are primarily responsible for the fentanyl that is killing Americans today.”


In December, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a flurry of new initiatives to further address the issue. According to the Governor’s Office, the California Health and Human Services Agency had invested $450 million in 2022 to combat the state’s opioid crisis. On top of that, the California’s National Guard added 166 members to support the efforts to seize illegal narcotics throughout the state.


“The opioid crisis has touched every part of California, and our nation, this year,” Newsom said in a statement. “As we mourn the many lives lost, California is working harder than ever to fight this crisis and protect people from these dangerous drugs to ensure our communities are kept safe in the first place. California is cracking down on the fentanyl crisis – increasing seizures, making resources more available to Californians and ensuring communities have what they need to combat the immeasurable harm opioids have caused our society, our communities and our loved ones.”


In addition to more National Guard troops and increased investments by the HHSA, the California Department of Health Care Services also announced in December that millions of dollars in grants have become available to help improve patient care in the areas of substance use disorder, opioid use disorder and addictions. The DHCS also launched new grants to help tackle youth opioid use was made available to schools and other nonprofit organizations.


Stanislaus County has already worked to spread awareness of the fentanyl crisis in the community with the “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. The campaign has brought several workshops and townhalls to communities across Stanislaus County. On Nov. 3, a townhall was held at the Turlock Community theatre in conjunction with the Turlock Unified School District. The next week, a similar workshop was held during a City Council meeting. Additionally, TUSD – as a member of the Stanislaus County Opioid Safety Coalition – has had secondary students watch presentations on the fentanyl and the opioid crisis.


“Awareness and education are the initial steps to prevention,” said Vartan. “We continue to use the input and expertise of our Opioid Safety Coalition to look at data and national approaches to add to our ongoing strategies. We all have a shared responsibility to protect our community.” 


Vartan encourages community members to get involved in helping solve the crisis by attending Stanislaus County Opioid Safety Coalition meetings, which take place every second Thursday of each month. More information on fentanyl, opioid addiction resources and on Stanislaus County’s response to the crisis can be found at or by calling BHRS Prevention Services at 209-525-5316.


If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use, call the Stanislaus County BHRS Access, Crisis & Support line at 1-888-376-6246.