Last year, the lives of 36 young people in Orange County — all under the age of 20 — were cut short by opioids, and the majority of those fatalities were fentanyl-related. According to the California Department of Public Health, there were 245 opioid deaths in this age group across the state.

“Each of these losses creates a ripple effect that impacts scores of individuals, families, friends, neighborhoods,” said Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. “It has the ability to ravage even a school, and we’ve seen this.”

Dr. Mijares was one of several featured speakers on Friday at a three-hour forum convened in partnership with Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, Superior Court Judge Maria D. Hernandez and UC Irvine to examine the devastating impacts of the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl on Orange County — and to promote age-appropriate prevention strategies and resources. Other forum speakers included Marshall Moncrief, the chief executive officer of Be Well OC, who employed props and visual aids to explain how addiction impacts the brain.