Texas school district stocking up on NARCAN

By Bethany Blankley

A rural Texas school district has launched a “fighting fentanyl campaign,” which includes stocking its nurses' offices with NARCAN, an opioid overdose treatment that can reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose if it’s administered quickly enough.

Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright published a video message about fentanyl on YouTube as part of a Hays CISD educational video series that will feature local families and people who are affected by the fentanyl crisis, as well as those in the community who are on the front lines fighting. The first of the videos in this on-going series is in production.

"I'm worried," he said. "We take all safety and security issues very seriously, but this one is especially concerning. We must treat the fentanyl crisis with urgency.”

While the county has been able to save several of its residents who’ve accidentally overdosed taking drugs laced with fentanyl, Wright said it’s had three fentanyl-related deaths that have been “gut-wrenching."

The district, located outside of Austin, published a statement, saying, “During the summer of 2022, the communities in Hays CISD began to see an increase in overdoses, poisonings, and deaths related to fentanyl. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often the ingredient used in counterfeit pills purchased on the street – sold as something else like Xanax, Percocet, or oxycodone. Quite often, in cases involving fentanyl, people who take the drug have no idea they are taking it. In the drug trade, fentanyl is a cheap alternative to other synthetic opioids and it takes so very little to kill.”

It's also published informational material, including posters and fact sheets for parents and students to warn them of the dangers of illicit drugs.

The district is partnering with local law enforcement, emergency management, and health authorities “to monitor and collaborate on the best way to combat the crisis,” it says.

It’s stocked Narcan at all campuses in its nurses’ offices, and with its school resource officers from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.

“District nursing staff, counselors, safety and security team, curriculum and instruction leaders, and our principals and campus leaders will be working on in-school educational opportunities, which may include assemblies, homeroom discussions, posters, or other ways to inform students about fentanyl dangers,” the district said.

The announcement was made as Gov. Greg Abbott announced new initiatives being launched in Texas to combat the opioid crisis.

The increase of fentanyl pouring into Texas is a result of a border crisis created by President Joe Biden, Abbott argues. Since the state’s border security effort launched last March, Texas law enforcement efforts through Operation Lone Star have confiscated 335.5 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill nearly every adult and child in the U.S. These numbers exclude the amounts confiscated by federal agencies.

As a result, several new initiatives have been launched in Texas, including expanding access to NARCAN, exploring a coordinated statewide substance abuse recovery program, directing financial and staff resources to Texas DPS crime labs and increasing funding for law enforcement efforts, and a new law that went into effect last year that increased criminal penalties for making or distributing fentanyl in Texas.

"The Biden Administration's open border policies have opened the floodgates for this deadly drug to make its way into our communities, but we are taking action to stop this epidemic,” Abbott said when he signed the bill into law. “By cracking down on the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl, we will help save lives here in Texas and across America."

Abbott on Sunday said he also supports a bill, if it passes in the next legislative session, that would increase criminal penalties and allow for dealers who provide drugs laced with deadly opioids that can be proven to lead to the death of users to be charged with murder.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid originally developed by pharmaceutical companies to help cancer patients, is “approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin,” the DEA says.

Two milligrams, the weight of a mosquito, is lethal. A teaspoon holds about 5,000 milligrams, enough to kill 2,500 people. One pound of fentanyl, or 453,592 milligrams, could kill 226,796 people.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl has become the deadliest drug in America.

Mexican transnational criminal organizations continue to supply most of the fentanyl (as well as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin) smuggled into Texas and the U.S., according to the DEA. Fentanyl and other drugs primarily come into the U.S. from Mexican cartels: the Sinaloa Cartel and Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, known as CJNG, the DEA reports.

Fentanyl is sometimes dyed blue and stamped to look like the prescription pill oxycodone or OxyContin, law enforcement officials report. The pill is known as "Mexican Oxy" or "M30s" on the streets because on each side of the pill is stamped a "30" and "M."

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has called on the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.

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