The Montgomery County Public Schools system hosted a family forum event Saturday at Clarksburg High School in Maryland, where panelists discussed both the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving potential of Narcan.
A panel of health experts, Montgomery County leaders and police held a discussion with parents and students to talk about how the community can help combat the growing problem of youth fentanyl overdoses. After a reported spike in youth overdoses in Montgomery County, school district leaders said the in-school use of naloxone — commonly known as Narcan — has increased in the last several weeks.
The panel touched on many aspects of the issue, including the importance of parents talking with their kids about the dangers of using fentanyl, the increase of fentanyl use among youth in the county, Maryland’s Good Samaritan Law which prevents students from being penalized for reporting overdoses, and Narcan, including training on how to administer it.
Opioid overdose antidote kits were distributed to attendees of Saturday’s forum.
Clarksburg High school Principal Edward Owusu said that the drug has taken a big toll on education in the county.
“This pervasive issue is in every single high school in Montgomery County public schools,” Owusu said. “It’s impacting the learning environment. That’s a fact.”
Rockville High School student Madison Watts said use of the opioid has been heavily affecting students.
“This is a big issue. We’ve had an overdose of a 15-year-old at [John F.] Kennedy [High School] the other day, which was terrible,” she said.
Montgomery County police reported that youth overdoses were up 78 percent, just from 2021 to 2022.
Captain Nicholas Picerno, Director of Special Investigations Division at Montgomery County Police, said they are finding that many people are now intentionally taking fentanyl.
“I would say the majority of youth are taking those knowingly, knowing they’re taking fentanyl,” he said.
“You should never think those three most dangerous words — ‘Not my kid’ — and you should always be prepared, and know that if they are leaving your house, they are being exposed,” said Laura Mitchell, one of the forum’s organizers.
Montgomery County schools’ spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told WTOP that the school system has administered Narcan a total of 11 times since the first day of the school year, and that seven of those instances have occurred since mid-December.
“Overdoses are not just happening in schools, in fact, they more frequently happen in the community,” Baxter said. “This is why we continue to draw attention to raise awareness to parents and students about the dangers in access to fentanyl and what they can do as community members to help.”
Overall, Montgomery County police reported 48 youth overdoses countywide in 2022, up from 27 in 2021.
The latest reported school overdose happened on Tuesday at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, according to Montgomery County police.
In a letter to parents, Kennedy High School Principal Joe Rubens said the incident occurred around 11:55 a.m. Police confirmed to WTOP that Narcan was administered on site and the student was taken to the hospital.
“Looks like a female student possibly overdosed on fentanyl. Fifteen-year-old female, not conscious but breathing,” said a dispatcher in police audio obtained by news partner NBC Washington.
Another student told WTOP news partner Telemundo 44 that drug use is common in her school.
“You will see that every day basically, in every bathroom,” the student said.