SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County officials and parents of high school students are putting the spotlight on teens and fentanyl use.
ABC7 News attended the first of several in-person and online discussions, addressing the problem within the county. It's a region described by officials as a distribution hotspot in the state.
The dangers of fentanyl and the teen deaths linked to it were on full display at an after-hours discussion at Lynbrook High School in San Jose.
County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, along with District Attorney Jeff Rosen and health experts, were part of a panel introducing a new pilot program to address this very painful and very personal topic with parents of young students.
"If you suspect your child may be using, they probably are," adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Ali Alkoraishi told the crowd. "And please, do not deny that that's a possibility."
Illegal fentanyl is sometimes pressed into pills and made to look like prescription drugs, or it can be mixed into other illicit drugs.
During the night's presentation, Mira Parwiz with the county's Behavior Health Services said Santa Clara County has marked a rise in fentanyl overdose deaths since 2015, when nine people died. In 2021, the number of deaths related to fentanyl poisoning spiked to 135.
"Forty-two out of 135 that got poisoned by fentanyl are under the age of 29," she said.
A parent who lost a teen this way was also part of the panel. He explained he's now focused on putting his energy into educating other parents.
"Doesn't matter how great a parent you were, it finds its way into every community as it did into ours," he told the crowd.
Monday's discussion was meant to provide parents with resources to recognize and respond to potential use.
Ed Liang with the DA's office explained that nearly every city and town in the county has had at least one death related to fentanyl poisoning in 2021.
Liang supervises the office's Major Crimes and Drug Trafficking Team.
On Monday, he even referenced the office has charged two drug dealers with separate murders. This included the death of a 12-year-old San Jose girl who fatally overdosed on fentanyl.
"It doesn't care who you are or where you're from. Whether it's this county, this state or in this country," Liang warned. "It will kill everyone and anyone."
As part of the pilot program, the county is planning additional discussions to be hosted at high schools across the region.
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