(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), took a step toward addressing the impact of fentanyl on students in El Paso County by meeting with local leaders at a fentanyl roundtable discussion on Tuesday, Aug.15.

School leaders, public health authorities, concerned parents, and alumni from Colorado Springs schools gathered at District 11’s administration building on Tuesday. Their voices carried the weight of first-hand experiences, revealing the tragic toll fentanyl has exacted on young lives.

Matt Weis, an alumnus of Academy School District 20, recounted the loss of his best friend Xavier: “He took a Percocet pill that he thought would alleviate his pain from basketball practice. And that pill turned out to be 99% fentanyl.”

Another heartrending account came from Matt Riviere, a Colorado Springs parent who lost both his sons, Andrew and Steven, to fentanyl poisoning.

“They took a drug. Bad choice. But it was laced with a lethal amount of fentanyl. So I don’t look at that as an overdose. I look at that as a poisoning,” said Riviere.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl stands as the single deadliest drug threat the nation has ever faced. In El Paso County alone, a staggering 96 overdose deaths in 2022 were linked to fentanyl. Among them, two were teenagers aged between 13 and 18.

“If you haven’t seen what this drug looks like, you might accidentally take it… Just teaching our kids isn’t sufficient. We need to teach everyone in our community,” explained Wendy Birhanzel, District 2 Superintendent, on awareness of how fentanyl can be hidden.

Congressman Doug Lamborn spoke about his legislative initiative, The Protecting Kids from Fentanyl Act, aimed at tackling the crisis head-on. The bill would give Colorado access to $146 million in grant funding to be put toward combating the crisis.

A primary focus of the proposed legislation is to equip schools with Narcan, a life-saving overdose reversal medication.

“A dose of Narcan saves lives… We know it… Having this type of legislative support from Congressman Lamborn and others allows us to be prepared to ensure that all our students are given not just that first chance, but sometimes that second chance,” said Michael Gaal, District 11 Superintendent, underscoring the vital role such support plays in ensuring students’ safety.

The legislation also emphasizes bolstering educators’ knowledge, enabling them to provide students with critical information that can potentially save lives. As Riviere highlighted, educators’ proficiency in discussing these critical topics with students is paramount.

“You need to be the smartest people in the room when you’re talking to your students. You need to know these facts. They need to roll off your tongue. They need to have these courageous conversations with their students. Educate, inform, and warn your students so they don’t wind up like my two boys,” Riviere urged.

This marks the second introduction of Congressman Lamborn’s bill, and he remains hopeful that this time, legislators will recognize the urgency and importance of its passing.

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