CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Sue Tisdale is working to destigmatize fentanyl and other opioid use through education. She said every life is worth saving.

“A little piece of fentanyl maybe the size of a chunk of sea salt could prove to be fatal to an individual,” said Tisdale, who is a Community Educator at UnityPoint Health – UnityPlace.

In a report from the Illinois Department of Public Health, in 2021 there were 3,013 deaths related to opioids. That’s a 2.3% increase from 2020 and a 35.8% increase from 2019. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be prescribed for chronic pain, however, illicit use has increased in recent years.

“And it is very effective in managing chronic pain. However, current times, since actually 2019, we’ve seen an influx, an increase in illicit fentanyl,” Tisdale said.

She is working to make a change by administering classes for individuals, families and organizations across 15 counties in Central Illinois.

According to the CDC fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. For Central Illinois, in 2021 there were 26 opioid overdose deaths in Peoria County, 23 in Tazewell County, 17 in McLean County and 5 in Woodford County.

“Understanding and being educated on Opioid Use Disorder is really critical. And I can’t encourage enough to individuals to really get educated and to understand the chemical brain function, the opioid receptors in the brain, to get a better understanding of what opioid dependence is,” said Tisdale.

Part of Tisdale’s material includes informing people about Naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdoes.

“It goes straight to those opioid receptors and lifts those opioids off of those receptors so that person can once again hopefully breathe again.”

In the state of Illinois, pharmacists and those who offer naloxone training can provide the medication without a presciption.

To sign up for a free class with Sue Tisdale call her cell phone at 309-267-5995 or her office phone 309-282-1086. For more information about overdose education and naloxone training visit www.unitypoint.org/peoria/overdose-education.