The perils of fentanyl drug abuse were at the forefront of discussions in Dallas over the weekend, thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) in partnership with the city. The first-ever bilingual forum, held at the Townview Center, brought together concerned parents, Dallas ISD staff, and community members, all eager to discuss the far-reaching negative effects of opioids and fentanyl on society.
Among the attendees were Natalie Vazquez, a freshman at Townview Center, and her mother. Like many other parents, they were deeply concerned about the drug’s prevalence in schools and how best to curb its spread. In her opening remarks, Dr. Tracey Brown, the executive director for Dallas ISD mental health services, rallied attendees, reminding them that they were not alone in their fight against fentanyl, and had access to various resources, including the Dallas Police Department, Dallas DEA, Dallas Fire-Rescue, and other helpful organizations.
The forum also highlighted the preventive measures that could help parents and schools tackle the issue of fentanyl drug abuse, according to Dallas Metro News. Todd Pevehouse, a parent in attendance, praised the organizers for providing useful information and remarked that “you never know when it could happen to your child.”
Troubling statistics were also disclosed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) during the forum, with reports showing that in 2020 alone, they seized about 11.4 million pills in Dallas. Furthermore, Eduardo Chavez, a DEA agent, emphasized that his team had noticed an increase in fentanyl abuse in the last six months, resulting from illicit multi-colored pills, a deviation from the previously prevalent scenario where Xanax and Percocet pills were laced with fentanyl.
To combat this concerning trend, Dallas ISD announced that starting next month, each campus would have Narcan, a prescription medicine that helps treat overdoses. Jarrod Gilstrap of Dallas Fire-Rescue emphasized that Narcan is easy to use and encouraged attendees to speak candidly about it.
While Dallas ISD has not recorded any fentanyl-related deaths in 2021, students have been expelled, arrested, or jailed due to fentanyl use. In comparison, the neighboring Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD has recorded three fentanyl-related deaths among middle or high school students, with many others surviving overdoses. Suspecting a drug ring just blocks away from the school, the DEA arrested three suspects involved in the supply chain, with a fourth suspect stepping in to fill the gap also apprehended.
To counteract social media’s role in enticing children into drug abuse, authorities at the forum also provided useful tips to parents on monitoring their children’s online activities. Vazquez, who was grateful for the essential refusal skills learned from the forum, advised other teenagers to do the same, stating that “they don’t want to feel intimidated or not seem cool because they don’t want to take it.”
Overall, the bilingual forum hosted by Dallas ISD, in conjunction with city authorities, is a significant step in the right direction towards curbing the menace of fentanyl abuse. By creating awareness and providing access to necessary resources, Dallas residents can protect their children and communities from the harmful effects of fentanyl drug abuse.
Also, lawmakers in Texas have proposed various bills related to fentanyl, including Senate Bill 645, authored by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, which would allow prosecutors to file a murder charge against individuals arrested for producing or selling illegally made fentanyl.