PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As the impacts of the opioid and fentanyl crisis in Oregon and across the United States become more well-known, some are taking education directly to parents and students.
On Thursday night, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Beaverton School District combined forces with KOIN 6’s Jenny Hansson moderating at a forum on fentanyl for families to receive information and ask questions.
Like many communities across the country, Washington County has an opioid crisis. Fentanyl is laced in other drugs like cocaine or even fake prescription drugs similar to Xanax or Adderall.
Sgt. Danny DiPietro said the county’s narcotic team seized roughly 58,000 pills in 2021, and last year, they seized over 758,000 pills – amounting to a nearly 1,200% increase. He says they will likely pass that number in 2023, because so far, they have seized over 300,000 pills.
“People are testing positive for fentanyl and those individuals are coming back and saying ‘I don’t use fentanyl, I use another drug,’ and what they’re not realizing is fentanyl is so cheap and so addictive that they’re putting it in everything,” DiPietro said. “It’s so potent, so cheap and so addictive, they realize they’re going to get people coming back for more.”
DiPietro said the goal of the forum was “education, education, education,” because many people don’t realize how potency changes from pill to pill. According to the DEA, two in every five pills contain a lethal dose.
“Think of it like making chocolate chip cookies,” DiPietro said. “When you make cookies, do you measure how many chocolate chips are in every cookie? One may have two, one may have 12. You may have one with two and you want more, and you get one with 12 and it’s a lethal dose.”
He added that two milligrams is a lethal dose: “That’s a few grains of salt.”
Mark Altenhofen, a parent of a Beaverton student, said he felt encouraged by the number of attendees for this forum discussion, because he thinks it’s important to keep communication lines open with teens and children.
“I think it just reinforces this message around open communication with adolescents, talking honestly about what the issues are,” Altenhofen said. “In our family, we try to keep things, nothing is taboo. If something is scary for you, let’s talk about it, let’s get it out in the open.”
Beaverton School District has taken safety measures to manage this crisis: leading classes warning of fentanyl, keeping Narcan available in each school and having substance use specialists on site. But even so, they say parents and students need to stay vigilant.
“I spoke to an investigator this morning, he just kind of went over everything that they’re seeing when it comes to how they’re dealing drugs whether it’s on social media and doing a hand-to-hand later. Or something you see extremely common, is they meet on social media and one way or another, they cash exchange now by Venmo, Cash App or Apple Pay, whatever it may be, and the drugs are actually mailed directly to them,” DiPietro said.
On Thursday, Senate Bill 238 passed the Oregon State House unanimously. It will teach students about the dangers of opioids with lessons that will be required and available starting in the 2024-25 school year. It now heads to Gov. Kotek’s desk for a signature.
Watch the video above to see the forum discussion.