BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The KCSO coroner’s office reported 492 overdose deaths last year, of which 232 were associated with fentanyl – an increase over the previous year of more than 80 percent.

It has been the case nationally. The major culprit, as reported here at 17 News for more than a year, is fentanyl, the illicit synthetic opioid that’s being mixed into virtually every drug on the street, from heroin to non-opioids, including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth.

Fentanyl is also commonly disguised as pharmaceuticals like Percocet, Oxycodone, Norco and Xanax.

“We know fentanyl is so deadly and so dangerous in small amounts and with so many members of our community losing their lives to overdoses or poisonings … we just feel like we need to be extra intentional about trying to get that awareness out there,” Bakersfield Police Lieutenant Ryan Kroeker said.

BPD and Kern County Behavioral Health have almost 20 billboards on the streets of Bakersfield right now, warning of the dangers of street opioids – one of several approaches they’re taking to combat this public health crisis.