COLORADO SPRINGS — Fentanyl abuse and overdoses can happen at any age and it is a growing concern among children in schools.
On Wednesday, multiple police chiefs, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly, and Congressman Doug Lamborn held a roundtable discussion about talking to kids about fentanyl.
The county is seeing a dramatic increase in younger fentanyl users. Last year, there were 99 fentanyl-related deaths in El Paso County and five of them were kids under the age of 18, including a teen from Mitchell High School that overdosed in class.
“This is not the beginning of our opioid epidemic, we are 30 years into this,” Dr. Kelly said.
So far this year, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office has seen 60 fentanyl deaths compared to 45 last year. They also do the autopsies for a third of Colorado in rural areas.
“This time last year we had five fentanyl deaths for those out of the county, those small towns this year today we have 11. We’ve already doubled in those small communities,” Dr. Kelly added. “So if you think because you live in Calhan and you live in some of these rural areas, ‘we’ve got a small community school this is a big city problem,’ it is not.”
Congressman Lamborn said the laws haven’t kept up with the drug counterfeits and synthetics so he’s working to get better federal laws.
“It is something we do agree with in Congress on both sides of the aisle but we need to give more time to it that it deserves,” Congressman Lamborn said.
The discussion on Wednesday was meant to help organize soldiers fighting to protect Southern Colorado youth from getting their hands on the deadly drug.
“Having these conversations, showing them Narcan if you’re a teacher in the classroom showing them what this is and if you’re a parent having this in your house,” said Matt Riviere, a Monument father whose two and only sons died from fentanyl.
Estevan Medina, a former gang member turned youth pastor was at the discussion and is doing intervention and prevention for kids. He said he recently saw 12-year-olds overdose and now hopes he can make a difference in this fight against fentanyl.
“I think people need to come together and find out who’s in the community and be able to use that for the people that have the feet on the ground that are working in that area,” Medina said. “You know, like, I would love to be able to connect with Dr. Kelly and get some more information or just whatever he’s dealing with so that I could show it to these kids, so I could show them like the reality of it.”
His message to those struggling with addiction is that there is a way out and people are available to help in hopes of stopping the epidemic.
“Had someone come to me when I was younger and made me aware of what I could do to my body by taking these things or doing these things, I would have probably looked at it a lot differently,” Medina added.
Some school districts have already stocked up on Narcan at every high school and middle school.