On Wednesday morning, local law enforcement leaders held a town hall to talk about the dangers of fentanyl with students.
School administrators, school nurses and school resource officers were part of that conversation. The message from law enforcement leaders was that the fentanyl crisis is growing, it’s in our community, and it's impacting the youngest generation.
“In July of 21, I got the worst news that a parent could ever imagine,” said Matt Riviere.
It was the news that his 19-year-old son Stephen and 21-year-old son Andrew, overdosed on fentanyl.
“I look at my boys and what I really want to connect with each of you here today, is they were regular kids,” said Riviere, who mentioned now more than ever, it’s important to have the hard conversation with kids and educate them about the fentanyl crisis.
Riviere also said the deadly drug doesn't discriminate in who it impacts, and now it's making its way into schools.
“With recent events, it has come that we need to educate these kids because they don't know what they're taking,” said Lena Orcutt, a school nurse at District 49.
Orcutt says part of her job is educating students about the dangers of the drug, and now, it’s also getting trained in how to administer narcan properly.
“We're in the process of getting narcan in our schools and at least at the secondary level. I feel good to have it so I can help these children. If I can save a life, that's my goal,” said Orcutt.
Orcutt also said school nurses are doing online training, and working with SRO’s and the school security team to know the signs and symptoms of what fentanyl use or an overdose looks like.
At Harrison School District two, school resource officers carry narcan, but more doses are on the way to give to other school staff.
“The policy is still being formulated as to who is going to be trained, and how that's going to look, but the plan right now is to get it into every single high school, every single middle school and every single K through eighth grade school in our district,” said Martin Toland, the safety and security director at the district.
He says, while there have been no overdoses in the district, there is growing concern in the community.
“It seems like fentanyl has almost been thrust upon our community. A couple of years ago, we really didn't hear that much about fentanyl, and now it is on a crisis level,” said Toland.
One of his priorities during the first few weeks of school is educating students in the district about the danger.
“My goal is to get into every single school in our district this year to give fentanyl presentations to students and staff to educate them about the prevalence of fentanyl and the dangers,” said Toland, who mentioned he’s also partnering with school resources officers to have those conversations.
For Riviere, Wednesday's conversation hit close to home, and he says he was there to put his son's faces to the growing statistics.
“A lot of times, I think that people disconnect. They see the statistics, they read the news, they hear the stories, but they don’t put faces to what this epidemic is doing,” said Riviere. “This is real, this is damaging, and it's happening all over our nation.”
The El Paso County Coroner said, at this time last year there were 45 fentanyl-related deaths in the county. This year, there are already 60.
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