GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – As drug overdose deaths continue to rise throughout the State of Wisconsin, Brown County has officially declared fentanyl a community health crisis.

Brown County Executive Troy Steckenbach, alongside Public Health Officer Anna Nick, made the declaration on Thursday at the Brown County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“What we’re seeing today is proving out to be a very difficult crisis in our country,” said Streckenbach. “Not just in Brown County, through the state.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. The drug is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin.

“There has been a significant increase in drug overdose deaths in Brown County associated with fentanyl,” explained Streckenbach. “The latest data for 2022 shows fentanyl is associated with 79% of all drug overdose deaths.”

Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl, which often leads to overdose deaths. Fentanyl can also be added to pills, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs.

“We need the community to come forward,” said Streckenbach. “We need to have the conversations with our family members, our children, to talk about the dangers of fentanyl and how it can take your life just like that.”

Brown County Public Health will be creating an Overdose Task Force, which will include Brown County departments, community partners, and the voice of those who are most impacted.

“The task force will focus on three equally important pillars,” said Nick. “Prevention, response, and recovery. Each pillar will have measurable goals and outcomes, with the ultimate outcoming being a reduction in fentanyl and opioid overdose deaths in Brown County.”

Mark Vanden Hoogen, Brown County’s Criminal Justice Services Manager, says that fentanyl is the number one drug on the streets that people are looking for, buying, and selling.

“People are using it left and right,” said Vanden Hoogen. “Overdoses have been increasing and those numbers aren’t slowing down. However, this effort will help us to assist people.”

Brown County Health Services will be hosting several listening sessions to talk about the fentanyl crisis. Its first session will be Monday, September 12 at 5:00 p.m. at Backstage.

The first event will be facilitated by Tom Farley, brother of famous comedian Chris Farley, who lost his life to an opioid overdose.