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How can LA combat its fentanyl crisis? MacArthur Park offers clues

Fentanyl is a highly addictive, synthetic opioid 50 times as potent as heroin. It was the primary contributor to the 55% uptick in the county’s homeless mortality rate from 2019 to 2021, according to the most-recent available data from the county’s Department of Public Health

MacArthur Park, near Downtown Los Angeles, has one of the highest concentrations of people who use fentanyl in L.A., said LAPD Sgt. Greg Fuqua.

Matthew, 30, who uses fentanyl in an alley near MacArthur Park says he first got hooked on oxycodone at his Pennsylvania high school. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Photography by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Sourcing & Methodology

This SCNG series was produced as project for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 California Health Equity Fellowship.

SCNG reporter Clara Harter and SCNG photographer Sarah Reingewirtz visited MacArthur Park numerous times over a four month period interviewing people who use fentanyl, local residents, shopkeepers, LAPD personnel, homeless outreach workers, medical providers and more.

The last names of people who use fentanyl were not published in an effort to ensure their comments do not negatively impact future efforts to gain housing or employment.

SCNG photographer Sarah Reingewirtz produced all images. SCNG reporter Christina Merino assisted with Spanish interviews and translations. Seattle based freelance reporter Will James served as a mentor and editor. SCNG editors Jill Stewart and Chris Haire also served as editors.


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