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The focus in the fight against fentanyl is turning toward schools

Group of students reading books

You’ve almost certainly seen the billboards around Carbon, Monroe, and Pike counties. Perhaps you’ve checked out the social media  pages. Maybe even subscribed to the newsletter. And if you’re reading  this, then you’ve definitely found the website. 

Congratulations! You’ve helped achieve the first step of the WeFightFentanyl campaign — general awareness. It’s a good start. But as we enter our sixth month, it’s time to focus. And that’s exactly the plan. 

Fentanyl is a potentially deadly opioid. It can be found lacing  illicit drugs and street pills, or lurking in medicine cabinets under a prescription. It’s easy to become addicted, and it doesn’t take much  — just 2 milligrams — to overdose. This powerful painkiller, spreading  so much pain across communities and age groups in the form of  addiction and death, has become a national crisis. 

For the next stage of the local fight against fentanyl, we’re going directly to one segment particularly at risk: school-age children. 

Over the summer and fall, WeFightFentanyl will begin focusing efforts on educators, schools, and young people. The goal will shift  from general awareness to providing teachers and school staff with knowledge and resources, to reaching out to kids, even through summer camps, and encouraging peer-to-peer discussion. 

That kind of interaction is key to spreading lifesaving  information and breaking down stigmas too often associated with opioid addiction. 

Awareness is good. Dialogue is even better. 

Why focus on schools? 

Last year, more than 70,000 Americans fatally overdosed last year  on illegally made fentanyl, which is found in fake pills and street drugs, according to National Fentanyl Awareness Day, which was  observed May 7. As a result, the day’s organizers urged families to  talk with the teens in their lives about the dangers of fentanyl and fake pills. 

Why the emphasis on teens? Because they are navigating through difficult problems right now. Just listen to what they’re telling us. The Pennsylvania Youth Survey, or PAYS, asks 6th, 8th, 10th, and  12th grade students in participating districts about drugs, violence,  and mental states. Even before full results of PAYS 2023 were released this spring, teens’ struggles were shown in early data. Across grade levels in Carbon, Monroe, and Pike, roughly: 

  • 20% to 40% of students said they were not in good overall mental health in the last year. 
  • 30% to 40% said they had feelings of depression. 
  • A quarter said they sometimes felt life is not worth it.
  • Up to 20% committed at least one act of self harm. 
  • A range of 15% to 30% said they had suicidal thoughts. Between 10% and 25% said they formed a suicide plan. Around 5% to 10% made a suicide attempt.

(If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.) 

Those are heavy feelings. Combined with peer pressure, pills could — mistakenly and dangerously — be taken as a form of escape. PAYS 2023 also found around 4% to 5% of surveys students in Carbon, Monroe, and Pike had used prescription pain relievers without a prescription at least once in their lives. 

Some schools already recognize that they are the front lines in the fight against fentanyl. School nurses Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg are permitted to carry and administer naloxone, a  temporary treatment for opioid overdoses — allowing them to provide  swift care when it’s most needed. Naloxone is also used by emergency responders.  

But how many students know that naloxone is widely available? Or how to use it? Focused outreach will not only raise awareness of fentanyl’s dangers — it can potentially save lives. 

What can be done? 

Detailed plans for school outreach are coming soon. The idea is to engage school superintendents and educators with fall programming. Students will still hear about it over the summer at camps, including summer camps for special-needs children. 

In the meantime, we can all continue to spread the word about important topics related to fentanyl and opioid addiction. We can talk about: 

  • How to save someone from an overdose.  Anyone who uses opioids  — whether illicitly, accidentally, or by prescription — is at  risk of an overdose. Naloxone (aka Narcan) is a nasal spray  that temporarily reverses the effect of an OD, meaning  bystanders can buy valuable time for emergency responders to save a life. Anyone who knows anyone using opioids can and  should have a dose handy — and know how to use it. 
  • How to find help. There are options for anyone seeking a way out of addiction, without judgment. That extends to illegal drug use, too. The Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Treatment  Initiative, or LETI, gives police officer in 28 participating counties (including Carbon and Monroe) the discretion to overlook minor drug offenses. Instead, they are trained to direct anyone who needs help with substance abuse to organizations ready and willing to offer assistance. 

Anyone who needs help can check out our list of recovery  resources at  or call the Carbon-Monroe Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission’s 24 toll-free hotline at 866-824-3578. 

  • The dangers hiding in our medicine cabinets. Old, unsecured  prescriptions can fall into the wrong hands. Young children or pets could accidentally ingest them, teens could intentionally misuse them, or seniors could get confused and take the wrong  pills. Opioids or not, the results can be catastrophic. Best  to dispose of old medicines at dedicated drop boxes, during take-back events, or with RX Destroyer, an at-home solution  available to Carbon, Monroe, and Pike residents.  
  • Staying up to date. Check for upcoming events from the Carbon Monroe-Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission at

Fentanyl has done much damage to our communities, leaving behind grieving families and friends. Together, we can continue the fight.

Fight Fentanyl

Fentanyl Poisoning Stops Here.

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