An organization’s fight against fentanyl epidemic

Luna Plaza, a homeless outreach worker, recounts a deep conversation with an elderly Jamaican woman she met in Overtown. 

The woman, Plaza says, was ensnared in a controlling relationship with fentanyl, She envisioned a path to recovery and dreamed of returning to her homeland to work at a shop of her own. 

“I told her my best friend was from Jamaica and she shared with me advice on how to stay safe as a woman there,” Plaza recalls. “Sometimes [those battling addiction] just need someone to listen to them, to talk to, because they don’t have that space.”

Plaza has been volunteering for the last three years to work with addicts of fentanyl, which has killed tens of thousands of addicts. Motivated by the devastating toll of fentanyl overdoses, which claimed over 70,000 lives in 2021, Thomas Guerra, a recovering user, and FIU alumni, initiated F*** Fentanyl in April 2023. 

With the help of dedicated volunteers like Luna Plaza, they organize events to raise money, distribute essentials like Narcan and water, and instruct communities on how to administer the life-saving drug throughout Miami Dade County. 

On a personal recovery journey,  Guerra, a two-time FIU graduate with aspirations of being a therapist, is now CEO of F*** Fentany. He is also a longtime advocate for drug abusers and recovery. 

Participating in various drug prevention organizations and relapsing during his time in school, Guerra knew he needed help, which meant there were so many others searching for the same light at the end of the tunnel. 

Miami Recovery Project was Guerra’s stepping stone to F*** Fentanyl. Serving those who identified that there was a problem and needed help to find a solution, he realized this epidemic was affecting a significant population. This was a wake-up calL. 

“Shifting from specific people looking for help to we need to help everybody,” he says. This is where this organization was born; in April, F*** Fentanyl was established.  

F**** fentanyl focuses on everybody. This means people who are addicted to, but not limited to, those who are exposed to it for the first time and have unpredictable or irresponsible fun are all at risk. 

From universities and churches to music festivals, Guerra performs overdose prevention training to teach our community not just the dangers of fentanyl but how to prevent it using Narcan. The goal is to save lives and train people so they can, too. 

At music festivals like Ultra, the organization’s team greets attendees at the entrance to pass out Narcan and other essentials that are crucial during a life-threatening emergency. 

Guerra explains, “You can’t find recovery if you don’t make it that far.” 

A misconception is that a fundraising event is a day’s worth of work. Plaza details packaging parties hosted by the organization’s staff and volunteers. Here, they prep care kits, which include water, clothes, Narcan, and even Plan B, an emergency contraceptive pill. She emphasized how they were lucky enough to receive funding recently.

Saturday, Nov. 18, was one of the first homeless outreach events that received sufficient funding for Plan B aside from Narcan and condoms, which can be very costly. 

The team of volunteers is ready for anything. They typically are mobile aside from the clothes that stay at the station they set up at the start of the events.

Distributing harm-reduction products is only one step in the fight. Knowing their community is part of their team’s strategy as they ensure they have many bilingual volunteers in the field. 

F*** Fentanyl hosts homeless outreach events monthly throughout Miami.

“Recovery is a spectrum,”  emphasizes Plaza.. “We just want to make sure people stay safe and alive.”

To learn more about F*** Fentanyl, visit their website.

Gabriela Salinas is a bilingual student journalist at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Journalism on a pre-law track. She has gained experience in the legal and communications field through internships at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Juan Cortes is a junior majoring in Digital Broadcasting with a focus on sports journalism. As a big soccer and FC Barcelona fan, he hopes to work in the sports broadcasting industry.