Virginia first lady speaks out on the dangers of fentanyl

The deadly danger of fentanyl took center stage Wednesday evening in Loudoun County as Virginia first lady Suzanne Youngkin led a forum aimed at raising awareness of the illegal substance and overdose risks.

Concerned parents sat in the sanctuary of the Community Church in Ashburn to hear experts describe the scope of the problem and what they can do to keep their children safe.

“Right now, we are undergoing the biggest drug threat that this country has ever faced. Fentanyl is the biggest threat to Americans. Two-hundred people a day die from fentanyl poisonings. These aren’t overdoses, they are poisonings,” said Shane Todd, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

From left to right, parent Jennifer Breaux, first lady Suzanne Youngkin, AG Jason Miyares, Sheriff Mike Chapman and DEA agent Shane Todd at a “One Pill Can Kill” forum on Tuesday night. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Attorney General Jason Miyares has been traveling the state to host “One Pill Can Kill” forums, which urge parents to talk to their children about the deadly risks of street drugs. Youngkin joined Miyares on stage Wednesday. She also runs a fentanyl awareness campaign: “It Only Takes One.”

“I, as the mother of four, (am) particularly concerned about the more than 200 Virginia youth that lost their life to fentanyl just last year… So this is a tough topic and it can be persistently sad,” Youngkin said.

Fulfilling the sad quotient, a Loudoun County mother outlined the tragedy of her son’s death from fentanyl poisoning in February of 2021, following a skateboarding accident which left him addicted to pain killers.

“Sources for street drugs eventually found him and they are in every community, lest we think they’re not. In our beautiful streets and beautiful homes of Loudoun County, they are everywhere,” said Jennifer Breaux, mother of Branson Gray Everette, who died at age 25.

Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman added that more than 100,000 Americans have died each year for the past three years from drug overdoses and 70% of the deaths are the result of fentanyl.

So what should parents do?

“You’ve got to talk to your family, talk to your kids, talk to your neighbors, talk to your relatives, talk to your co-workers,” said DEA agent Todd about spreading the word about the dangers of fentanyl.

The forum also offered audience members training in the use of naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. The nasal spray has saved countless lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdose.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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