EL PASO COUNTY — Michael DeLeon, a recovered drug addict, says fentanyl-related deaths among kids are not overdoses, but "poisonings".
"We're creating addiction unlike we ever have in our history of our country."
DeLeon founded the nonprofit Steered Straight, teaching the reality of drugs to students and parents all across America.
"I spent 5 years in prison, but I got high 6 months out of prison and I went right back to prison for 7 more years, so really finding my purpose... Finding the purpose for my life, that's how I replaced my addiction with purpose."
DeLeon spoke at a student assembly, and later a community seminar on Wednesday night at Community Prep School in Colorado Springs. He was disappointed, but not surprised that many of the seats in the audience were empty.
"You don't want to believe it's your kid. You believe if you go to an event about drugs or vaping - It's not your kid, it's not gunna be your kid, maybe if you got you make it your kid. It's silly."
Recently released data from the El Paso County Coroner's Office reveals drug-related deaths saw a 22% increase in 2021 compared to 2021.
The data also says 99 of accidental-overdoses were related to fentanyl. Of the 99 accidental-overdose deaths, five of them were children - Ages 1, 5, 15, and two 17-year-olds.
"In just five years we've gone from a very small number to a very, very large number," says Dr. Leon Kelly, the County Coroner.
Dr. Kelly has two children of his own and says he has had to have conversations with them about the dangers of strange drugs.
"You don't ever take anything from somebody else, you don't pick up anything off the ground, even if it looks like a medication you don't take anything and put it in your mouth unless it's given to you by ya know, the school nurse or your parents."
DeLeon says a key part to curbing the public health emergency related to fentanyl, is to talk with kids about it.
"The only way we're gunna end addiction in America is to stop it from happening in t he first place. We've got to talk to our kids... It might be hard. It might be scary, but they're worth it."
DeLeon might be visiting Colorado Springs again later in the school year.
You can learn more about Steered Straight here.
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