New fentanyl awareness billboard on display in memory of Omaha North’s Ty Jackson

A mother hopes to fight fentanyl deaths by sharing her son's story
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 5:24 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One Omaha woman is working to fight fentanyl overdoses in the metro, inspired by the loss of her own son, Ty Jackson.

In 2022, DEA’s Omaha division reported that it seized nearly 4.7 million lethal doses of fentanyl in its region alone, including Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Minnesota. Across the country, the number of potential lethal doses was an amount that totaled to more than every American.

Now, near the 76th and Dodge intersection, a reminder: “Don’t take fake pills off the street.” And that “fentanyl kills,” said Jackson’s mom, Jacqueline Argarin.

Jackson went to Omaha North High School. He wrestled and helped the team win a state championship. On New year’s Eve in 2019, 23-year-old Jackson took Adderall to get through the workday. It was unknowingly laced with fentanyl. He died that morning on his front patio in Denver.

“He was a really good kid,” said Argarin. “He had a full ride to college. He took one pill, and it killed him. It was laced with fentanyl, and it took his life. And it took everybody here’s life away too.”

According to the DEA, just two milligrams of the drug, enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, could kill you.

Nationally, two-thirds of the over 107,000 drug overdoses in 2021 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The CDC estimates a 7% increase of drug overdoses happened in Nebraska from July of 2021 to July of 2022.

This increase is why Jackson’s mom thought something more needed to be done.

“As hard as it is for me, I think having his name on this will really go far.”

Argarin paid for a slot on a digital billboard. Drivers going eastbound on Dodge near 75th can catch it for a few seconds at a time. It’ll be on display until Jan. 14.

“If I can help, like I said, one person. But the OPD said I think it’ll probably save like six lives. Because that’ll get 150,000 views, they said.”

On Sunday, a day after the three-year anniversary of Jackson’s death, family and friends walked up to the billboard to see it for themselves. Steven Kirchner, Ty’s friend and former wrestling teammate joined.

“I think about my friend a lot,” said Kirchner. “I coach with our high school now. And just thinking about him. And being around the kids and everything. He’s just one we miss a lot.”

The group then gathered at Zio’s Pizzeria a few blocks over, a reminder of just how many people loved and cared for Ty Jackson. Now thousands more will be reminded of his memory too. And reminded that fentanyl kills.