The first virtual opioid assembly – called SDNeeds2Know – is being held Dec. 16 to inform students of increasing fentanyl-related overdose deaths related to laced substances and to warn them that any pills that don’t come from a pharmacy could be deadly.
Students at every middle and high school in the county are being invited to virtually attend the event, which is being organized and supported by the District Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County Office of Education, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Natural High, and other partners. The online summit is streaming from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. from the San Diego School for Creative and Performing Arts.
“Our region is experiencing a drug overdose health crisis,” said District Attorney Summer Stephen. “Over the past few years in San Diego County, the number of fentanyl deaths, especially among young people, has more than quadrupled. This is why we planned this countywide summit focused on middle and high school students, who are asked to log on to this summit from whatever class they’re in for an hour packed with life-saving information.”
The summit on opioids seeks to educate middle and high school students by engaging them in a dynamic livestream event that includes powerful testimonials from overdose survivors, a short play by students, and inspiring messages from local leaders. One of the program highlights is a keynote speech by Chris Herren, a former NBA basketball player who struggled with an opioid addiction and uses his story of recovery as a powerful connection to help those suffering from addiction. His presentation also focuses largely on the social and emotional health of our teens.
Aaron Rubin, who became a quadriplegic after an opioid overdose, and his mother, Sherrie, will also speak to the students about their experience.
Parents of middle and high school age children are encouraged to contact their schools to confirm their child’s classroom is participating in the summit. Parents are also encouraged to attend.
San Diego County continues to deal with a fentanyl crisis. Overdose deaths have increased from 33 in 2016 to almost 700 so far this year. Victims include students as young as 16 years old, and young people are experimenting with drugs as early as 12.
“It’s our job as educators to make sure that students are made aware of the dangers that opioids and other drugs present, and this summit is an opportunity to hear from individuals who have experienced peril at the hands of these powerful drugs,” said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. “To curb these alarming trends, we must continue to create school environments that are safe and welcoming to all students.”
It's impossible to know what is in street drugs, DA Stephan warned.
“San Diego needs to know that the pills or powder currently sold on the streets, likely contain fentanyl, DA Stephan said. “Literally one pill can kill and has killed in every neighborhood of our county.”
This event is made possible with assistance from donors, who include HIDTA, Sycuan, Natural High, Hazelden Betty Ford, the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, and the Warshof Family. The summit was organized by Deputy DA Terri Perez when she served as the DA’s Chief of Narcotics Division.