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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

The momentum to engage in mental health conversations and reduce stigmas surrounding mental health has led to action at various levels benefiting students.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) continues to support the creation and sustainability of school wellness centers at public schools throughout Santa Clara County. More than 7,000 students have been served through wellness centers located on their school campuses, with 70% of youth served found their wellness center visit beneficial.

As advocates for youth, the SCCOE co-sponsors legislation to reduce barriers, make mental health resources and supports accessible to youth, and expand programs.

This legislative cycle, the SCCOE is co-sponsoring Assembly Bill (AB) 483 and SB 551. Through SB 551, county governments would be required to collaborate with local education agencies (schools and districts) and allocate at least 20% of Prevention and Early Intervention funds toward school-based behavioral health services. Meanwhile, AB 483 would expand access to school-based health and mental health services by encouraging more schools to participate in the LEA Billing Option Program (LEA BOP) and bill for more eligible services, thereby increasing funding available to support student services.

While collaborative efforts continue to support youth mental health and wellness, there is another crisis affecting their wellbeing that warrants amplification– fentanyl. Fentanyl is causing more youth deaths than all other drug-related deaths combined.

A synthetic opioid, fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. A small amount (a few grains of sand for comparison) can be lethal. Illicit fentanyl is mass-produced and mixed into counterfeit pills in an effort to falsely market them as legitimate prescription pills, resulting in deceptions and threats to communities throughout the nation and locally. These fake or counterfeit pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to youth.

Young people obtaining counterfeit pills unknowingly ingest fentanyl putting themselves at risk for deadly poisoning and overdose. It can happen to anyone, and the families who share their grief of losing their child to fentanyl have shared something similar – their children did not show signs of substance abuse. Whether young people are attempting to self-medicate or experiment, it’s critically important to start conversations with youth on how to make safe and healthy decisions that reduce harm.

To bring attention to the dangers of fentanyl, the first National Fentanyl Awareness Day was observed on May 10, 2022. The date is purposefully observed during Mental Health Awareness Month to educate about self-medicating during a time when counterfeit pills are easily accessible online and in communities. This year, Fentanyl Awareness Day is May 9. On this day and every day after, take action to spread awareness by learning the facts about fentanyl and sharing your knowledge by engaging in dialogue and sharing on social media. You can learn more about Fentanyl Awareness Day by visiting

The SCCOE collaborates to address the dangers of fentanyl specific to youth and works with municipalities and educational organizations to share collateral specific to campaigns aimed at youth. Santa Clara County’s Fentanyl Working Group is a model for future county working groups throughout the state. The county working group includes the SCCOE, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project (SCCOOPP), and the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Service. The SCCOE is sponsoring Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) which aims to prevent opioid and fentanyl overdoses and death among California youth and support school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to incorporate opioid prevention and treatment efforts in School Safety Plans.

The SCCOE has provided Narcan/Naloxone training and kits to school staff and community members throughout the county. Nearly 1,300 Narcan/Naloxone kits have been distributed through events and trainings.

On Thursday, May 11 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. we invite Santa Clara County parents, educators, and young adults to learn about the dangers of fentanyl, how to prevent overdose deaths, and how to help inform our greater community so that young people’s lives are not cut short by one pill. Registration is required to attend.