GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — Fentanyl overdose deaths have dramatically increased across the U.S. including right here in Colorado. As state lawmakers work to address the crisis, public opinion has revealed a significant level of misunderstanding about fentanyl, the causes of the recent increase in overdose deaths and how to effectively respond to it.

Our Khira Isaacs met with one mother who has a personal experience with the effects of fentanyl and uses her voice to speak for those who no longer can.

“Well in 2018, we lost our daughter Ashley to M30, a counterfeit fake pill made with fentanyl,” says Executive Director of the Voice for Awareness Foundation and the Founder of Facing Fentanyl, Andrea Thomas.

Approved by the FDA in 1968, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid now used as a pain medication – only fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin.

“Ashley was given a half of this pill and it took her life almost instantly,” continues Thomas.

This unspeakable tragedy led Andrea to create Facing Fentanyl, a group formed to bring awareness about the dangers of the drug and to safeguard families from a similar unimaginable experience.

While some use fentanyl intentionally, many individuals like Andrea’s daughter, Ashley, who took a pain pill, have absolutely no idea because it can be illegally hidden in common drugs, purchased online or sometimes on the streets.

“We began advocating and started voices for awareness and have been going nationally to spread prevention and awareness,” says Thomas.

Now, Andrea and other members of Facing Fentanyl have gone the extra mile to write a letter to President Biden — urging him to declare fentanyl a national health emergency.

“It’s a national security crisis. It’s a national health crisis. And we have lost more people to fentanyl poisoning than to COVID,” states Thomas.

Losses that aren’t forgotten on the facing fentanyl website — dedicated to hundreds of people who lost their lives to the deadly drug.

“We want to let the American public know that no one is immune from this,” says Thomas.