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"Fentanyl Kills" billboard unveiled in Times Square shows pictures of drug overdose victims

Times Square billboard shows faces of fentanyl's tragic toll
Times Square billboard shows faces of fentanyl's tragic toll 02:04

NEW YORK -- A group of activists and grieving family members who've lost loved ones to fentanyl are putting their pain on full display at one of the most iconic landmarks in the country.

On a bustling Monday morning in Times Square, next to the ads for the hottest phones and TV shows, there is one billboard that is far more important.

"We're being exterminated," Brooklyn resident Michael Fiore said. 

Fiore stood beneath the faces of hundreds of Americans who've died from fentanyl poisoning. 

"We're dealing with a weapon of mass destruction," Fiore said. 

Fiore is a recovering addict who works with a nonprofit called Facing Fentanyl to spread awareness across the country. Even on Monday, just about a week after he lost his friend Cody Hood to fentanyl poisoning in California.

"I'm going to make this loss push that pain forward to make sure everybody knows how deadly and dangerous fentanyl is," Fiore said. 

One of the faces in Times Square was Gabe Phillipe from Rocky Point on Long Island, who died from fentanyl poisoning at the age of 15 in 2010.

"At the time we tried to tell people how awful fentanyl was and how strong it was, but nobody wanted to listen," Gabe's grandmother Paulette Phillipe said. 'It has just gotten horrible."

More than 100,000 people, a record high, died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2022, according to the CDC. CDC data shows more than 4,900 opioid overdose deaths involving fentanyl in New York state last year. That means 92% of all opioid overdose deaths in the state involved fentanyl.

"The DEA right now is mapping this entire threat, not just here in New York, but across the country," Special Agent in Charge of DEA New York Division Frank A. Tarentino III said. "Across the globe, understanding exactly where the cartel has their influence."

"I'm tired of parents burying their kids, kids burying their parents, friends burying friends, brothers burying their sisters, sisters burying their brothers. So something's not your problem until it becomes your problem. Before fentanyl becomes your problem, help us be part of the solution," Fiore said.   

The hope is that, in the years ahead, grieving families and activists won't have to add so many faces to their tributes.

Advocates handed out naloxone, the life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. 

Monday is also Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. 

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