Health

Mothers speak out on lack of fentanyl awareness

Informational booths offer resources to families and passersby at Hollister event.
Geralyn Vasquez. Photo by Juliana Luna.
Geralyn Vasquez. Photo by Juliana Luna.
Riana Gutierrez from Youth Alliance talking to Jackie Bisceglia. Photo by Juliana Luna.
Riana Gutierrez from Youth Alliance talking to Jackie Bisceglia. Photo by Juliana Luna.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna

On June 11, about 40 people attended the Fentanyl Awareness & Prevention event at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister. San Benito County Behavioral Health Department organized the gathering, which featured 14 booths hosted by organizations sharing informational resources covering health topics, abuse prevention, education and youth services. 

Two mothers, Lisa Marquez and Geralyn Vasquez, spoke at the event.

“I lost my only child to fentanyl,” said Marquez. 

She told the audience about the day she learned what happened to her 17-year-old son, Fernando.

She said she received a phone call from the police, who asked her to come to the hospital. When Marquez and her sister got to the emergency room, they were informed her son had died.

“He and his friends decided to buy some Xanax from somebody’s Snapchat,” Marquez said.

“The pills that they bought were fake.

“As parents, I and another mom [Vasquez] have gotten together to share our story,” she continued. “We want to educate parents. I don’t want another parent to find out what fentanyl is from their child’s toxicology report from the coroner’s office. That’s how I found out.”

In 2019-20, there were 16 overdose deaths reported in the county, according to the San Benito County Opioid Task Force.

Vasquez said her son didn’t want to die. 

“He was visiting his grandparents, and already had return flight tickets,” she said. “The paramedics could not revive him. The only thing we found on him was one bar of Xanax.” 

With no answers for her loss, Vasquez’s daughter searched the internet for information and stumbled upon Marquez’s Facebook page, where Marquez posted about losing her son to Fentanyl.   

During her talk, Vasquez questioned why there was no attention paid to deaths caused by fentanyl.

“If you’re feeling stress, anxiety, fear, or anything, please try to find help. Do not turn to take a pill, whether it is to party or to relax,” she said.

Throughout the rest of the event there was live music, a DJ, raffles and a photo contest. 

Carolina Lopez, a vocational assistant from Behavioral Health, said raffle prizes included gift cards and certificates. Prizes were donated by 25 local businesses 

Anai Murillo and her younger sister Liliana were running errands downtown when they were invited to attend.

“We were warmly welcomed to join,” Murillo said. “The booths were very informational with different, helpful resources. I hope fairs like this happen more frequently.”

Youth Recovery Connections Executive Director Michael Salinas said his organization is open 24/7, ready to serve the community and focus on the dangers of fentanyl.

“There are kids that are unfortunately dying from this. We’re here to spread awareness and education, even more so for the Hispanic Spanish speakers,” said Salinas.

Salinas said Hispanic Spanish speakers come from different countries and don’t understand the severity of the consequences. 

Joel Seravia brought his five- and seven-year-old kids to the event. They visited each booth and increased their awareness on a range of health issues.

“It’s important to be honest with kids about drug prevention,” Seravia said.

 

Additional resources

CA Vape User Helpline: (844) 866-8273

Central Coast 24-Hour Suicide Hotline: (877) 663-5433

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

California Poison Control System: (800) 222-1222

 

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Juliana Luna

Juliana Luna is Hollister born and raised. She recently graduated from San Benito High School, 2021. Currently attending Gavilan College where she plans to earn her Business Associate’s Degree to transfer to a four-year university. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Pinnacles National Park, horse riding, and photography.