ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- A moving display sits outside the Ector County Courthouse tonight; a white chair for every local child or young adult who has died from a fentanyl overdose. Organizers with the 1:11 project said the display is aimed at saving lives. 

“We hope that people from the community will come out and take a look at the chairs, take a look at the chairs, take a look at the posters…to visually see all the lives that have been lost. I think, oftentimes if people don’t see it, they forget. And fentanyl is not going away…it’s happening every single day, so the more we show, maybe it will be on the forefront of their minds,” said 1:11 Project founder, Michelle Watson.

Watson said she hopes that recently enacted laws will soon help to slow the spread of fentanyl in the community.

“Our loved ones are gone; they’re not coming back, and someone gave them whatever they took and so now having harsher laws…making it more strict I think will start to make a difference,” she said.  

The law Watson is referring to was passed in July; under that law, anyone accused of providing or selling fentanyl to someone who dies as a result can be charged with murder. 

The work Watson and the 1:11 Project is doing is critical amid rising rates of fentanyl deaths locally and across the state. While many health experts predicted that drug “overdose” and fentanyl fatalities would decrease after the pandemic, new data released this month from the CDC revealed that U.S. drug “overdose” deaths reached a new high in 2023.

The CDC estimates that more than 111,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in April – and more than 77,000 of those deaths involved fentanyl and other synthetic opioids other than methadone. Both are record highs and increases over the prior year. In Texas, fentanyl related deaths rose by 28%.