Today, Colorado Congressmen Joe Neguse and Doug Lamborn teamed up to introduce the bipartisan Protecting Kids from Fentanyl Act. Their bill allows for unspent COVID-19 funding to go toward fentanyl education and prevention efforts in K-12 schools. This funding was allocated to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund as part of three COVID-19 relief packages passed this Congress. The lawmakers introduced this bill after hearing concerns from school and public health officials surrounding the uptick in fentanyl-related overdoses this past year. According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) during the 2021 to 2022 school year, *31 kids aged 10-18 died as a result of fentanyl.
"Throughout Colorado, fentanyl-related overdoses have increased exponentially, and the impact this crisis has had on families across our state is truly devastating. The Protecting Kids from Fentanyl Act is a bipartisan solution that will empower our K-12 schools to tackle this emergency. Everyone -- especially our children -- deserve to live in a safe community, and this bill helps achieve that goal," said Congressman Joe Neguse.
"The fact that children are dying from fentanyl overdoses in schools around the country is absolutely unacceptable," said Congressman Doug Lamborn. "While overdoses due to fentanyl are becoming more common among our youth, research shows that the availability of naloxone, along with overdose education, is effective at saving lives. This legislation will ensure that schools have the prevention tools and education necessary to protect our most vulnerable population from the growing fentanyl epidemic. I am glad to sponsor this critical legislation and thank my colleagues in Congress, including fellow Coloradan Joe Neguse, for making this a bipartisan effort."
"Losing my two sons, Andrew, and Stephen, together in one night was the shock of my life," said Matt Riviere. "I did not know what fentanyl was until this terrible drug forever altered my life. My hope and desire are to save lives and help parents avoid the searing pain of losing their kids. Awareness and education are crucial to curbing fentanyl from getting into our schools. This groundbreaking legislation will give schools access to the funds they desperately need to purchase life-saving naloxone and provide needed training for educators."
He continued: "I am thankful for Congressmen Lamborn and Neguse's courageous leadership on this critical bill and to the many co-sponsors. Fentanyl does not discriminate; the crisis plaguing our country and destroying our youth is not a partisan issue. I am grateful for the continued partnership and collaboration of lawmakers, law enforcement officials, educators, and others, who are taking the threat of fentanyl seriously in our community. Together, united in purpose, we can save lives and stem the tide of this terrible crisis."
"The changing drug landscape has made this the most dangerous time in America for our youth. Illicit fentanyl is responsible for 77% of teen deaths in 2021," said Andrea Thomas, Executive Director-Voices for Awareness Foundation. "Prevention education in schools is essential to teach youth about counterfeit pills that are made to be disguised as legitimate medications. During the Covid pandemic, a nation was educated on health safety, but sadly, we did not anticipate the lingering effects of isolation and social media on youth during the lockdowns. The fentanyl crisis snuck into our communities, taking advantage of one public health crisis to begin another more lethal crisis. Schools are eager to continue educating students in these changing times but lack the resources to do it. In-person school drug prevention seems the natural next step to safeguarding kids. Utilizing unused covid funding for drug prevention in schools makes sense."
Across America, the leading cause of overdoses is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which has increased in prevalence in recent years. According to reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose-related deaths topped 100,000 for the first time ever in 2021 -- with nearly 70% of these deaths involving fentanyl. For the state of Colorado, fatal fentanyl overdoses increased by 70% between 2020 and 2021, totaling more than 900 deaths total in the past year.
Specifically, The Protecting Kids from Fentanyl Act will provide schools with the flexibility needed to use unspent COVID-19 relief dollars allocated through the ESSER Fund to:
Purchase naloxone or other opioid antagonists
Provide training to school nurses, teachers, school administrators, and school resource officers on
how to administer naloxone or other opioid antagonists
Provide fentanyl awareness classes or materials to students
Read the bill text HERE.
Endorsers include; The School Superintendents Association, Facing Fentanyl, Blue Rising Together, Voices for Awareness Foundation, The Colorado Coalition for Families Affected by Fentanyl, VOID (Victims of Illicit Drugs), Matthews Voice, and The Alexander Neville Foundation.
This bill is the most recent action taken by Congressman Neguse to address the youth substance abuse crisis in America. In October 2021, Rep. Neguse introduced the Preventing Youth Substance Abuse Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Substance Abuse Affected Youth Initiative, a Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative to ensure public health and safety by taking steps to address youth substance abuse. The program supports the efforts of states, communities, tribal jurisdictions, nonprofits, for-profit organizations, and institutions of higher education in identifying, responding to, and treating substance abuse issues in young people.