Lifeways to offer fentanyl facts in series of information sessions

ONTARIO – A steady increase in fentanyl overdose deaths in Oregon that outpaces other states is prompting local officials to act.

In April, Lifeways in Ontario, a behavioral health and drug addiction provider, will hold information sessions about the deadly drug at three school districts. 

The sessions, dubbed “Informed Minds: Operation Fentanyl,” will kick off at Nyssa High School on Wednesday, April 10, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Subsequent sessions at the same time will be held at Vale Elementary School Wednesday, April 17 and Ontario Middle School, Wednesday, April 24.

Dinner, child care and a translator will be provided at the free public events. 

Paula Olvera, prevention supervisor from Lifeways, said Friday, March 22, that she and another staffer from the prevention department will talk about how the drug is impacting the community, what to watch for if a parent suspects their child might be abusing the drug and dispel myths and misinformation.

Olvera said Malheur County middle and high schools have seen an uptick in overdoses. However, she said she did not know how many or where those overdoses occurred. Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department, said her office does not keep such statistics.

While statistics regarding local fatal and nonfatal overdoses are hard to track, law enforcement and other county officials believe the numbers in Malheur County are at an all-time high.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the highly potent and highly fatal drug has flooded Oregon. The agency notes that 2 milligrams of the drug, the amount on the tip of a pencil, is enough to kill the average person.

Olvera said the drug is laced with other substances, including marijuana, cocaine and oxycodone 30-milligram pills. She said her team has been telling people that they should suspect any non-prescribed drug to contain fentanyl.  Last year, federal authorities seized over 15.7 million fake pills that had been laced with fentanyl.

Olvera said the kids are beginning to experiment with drugs at younger ages. She said some of the kids who have overdosed were knowingly taking fentanyl while others were not.

She said the school discussions are ones that every parent should have with their middle and high-school-age children.

“It’s very dangerous to think that this happens someplace else or this happens to somebody else,” she said. “Because it is possible that it could happen to someone who you know or love.”

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