The death of another student from a fentanyl overdose prompted Hayes County officials to step up warnings about the drug.
The county sheriff confirmed the death on Sunday.
Tim Savoy, director of communications for the Hayes Consolidated Independent School District, said the crisis continues. Three Hays CISD students died of fentanyl overdoses last summer, and a fourth student died in their first week of school.
“We are putting a lot of money, effort and energy into protecting schools from everything from gun violence to a pandemic,” he said. “It’s the only thing that really affected [student deaths] more than anything.”
Early this school year, Hays CISD invested in a campaign to educate students about the risks of fentanyl poisoning.
“We’re in the education business, so of course we can immediately explain to people that this is not something that’s happening anywhere else,” Savoy said. “It’s not just what you read about. It’s actually happening in our community and it’s killing our kids.”
Hays CISD worked with students on campuses to create a series of informational posters and videos, and distributed the materials to schools across the district in all grades.
The posters show kids what a lethal dose of fentanyl looks like and how to tell a fake pill from a real one.
Savoy says young people aren’t looking for fentanyl; instead, they think they are taking another drug and accidentally overdose on a synthetic opioid.
“Instead of real opiates, they are simply produced somewhere unscientifically and not measured,” he said. “They are not dosed properly and they are lethal.”
The school district recently posted on its website footage of a fentanyl overdose that occurred outside the Hays CISD school. Surveillance video shows an overdose student in the front seat of his car. His friend pulls him unconscious out of the car and calls for help. The student lived.
“We made all the high schoolers watch it,” Savoy said. “Children see two of their peers in an emergency. It’s real. It’s not reproduced or anything like that.”
Savoy said he saw a strong reaction from students.
The district also works closely with the Forever15Project, founded by Janelle Rodriguez, who lost her son this school year to a fentanyl overdose.
Rodriguez said she and her husband had hardly heard of fentanyl and didn’t know what it was until their son Noah died. Soon after, Rodriguez began reaching out to other parents, speaking at events and working with local law enforcement to speak out about the dangers of counterfeit prescription pills.
“Of all the families I have met, we are all from different walks of life,” she said. “No one is safe from this drug.”
Forever15Project placed a billboard along I-35 between Buda and Kyle to highlight the dangers of fentanyl. It has a photo of Noah, as well as two other dead boys. The billboard was funded entirely by donations.
“I wanted to make this bold statement. I wanted these children to see my son and other boys who had passed away there, to show them that this is real life, ”said Rodriguez. “Like your friends aren’t coming back. They left because they made a bad choice.”
MediaChoice recently gave the group space on seven additional billboards in Texas.
All Hays CISD schools are supplied with naloxone, a medication used to eliminate or reduce the effects of opioids. Savoy said it has saved lives several times, and Hays CISD is looking to increase the number of doses available on campuses.
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