SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An online summit to address the dangers of fentanyl for local middle and high school students kicked off Thursday, following an uptick in fentanyl-related overdose deaths across San Diego County.
Schools countywide were invited to take part in the summit, which featured testimonials from overdose survivors and a keynote speech from former NBA player Chris Herren, who struggled with an opioid addiction for much of his career.
The event, dubbed SDNeeds2Know was organized by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the San Diego County Office of Education, and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, among others.
Officials said San Diego County fentanyl-related deaths are increasing exponentially, with nearly 700 such deaths this year and some victims as young as 16 years old.
"Over the past few years in San Diego County, the number of fentanyl deaths, especially among young people, has more than quadrupled," District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "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."
Part of the summit addressed the pervasiveness of fentanyl-laced street drugs.
"San Diego needs to know that the pills or powder currently sold on the streets, likely contain fentanyl," Stephan said. "Literally one pill can kill and has killed in every neighborhood of our county."
Organizers asked parents to contact schools to ask whether their child's classroom was participating in the summit.
"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," County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold said. "To curb these alarming trends, we must continue to create school environments that are safe and welcoming to all students."
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