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'One pill can kill': Parents, students in Clark County warned of fentanyl dangers

School districts and law enforcement hope educating people about fentanyl will curb the growing number of deaths related to the synthetic opioid.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is teaming up with Vancouver Public Schools and the Evergreen School District to warn parents and kids about the dangers of fentanyl, in the hope of saving lives.

"Fentanyl is the most dangerous and deadly drug out there right now," said Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Sofianos, who spent five years supervising Clark County’s Regional Drug Task Force. 

On Tuesday night, he spoke to parents and students from all over Clark County, gathered at the Fort Vancouver High School auditorium. Sofianos shared how deadly fentanyl is, what the synthetic opioid looks like and how it's being marketed to kids. He also shared educational resources about fentanyl including a documentary.

Josh Gutierrez drove down from Kelso for the presentation, and brought his 11 and 12-year-old sons with him.

"I don't want them going into middle school and high school just being unaware," Gutierrez said. "When it comes up and it becomes an issue, at least I can speak intelligently to my boys about it and to their friends who may not be going to presentations like this."

Fentanyl has already had a deadly impact within local school walls. Last year, a KGW investigation uncovered the death of a Hudson's Bay High School student. The girl's mom said the young victim was 16 years old when she overdosed on fentanyl in a bathroom stall last May. Public records showed a school nurse and medical responder both used Narcan to keep the girl alive, but she died six days later in the hospital.

"The tragedies, we want to do better; we want to better support families and kids," said Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Snell. He said the fentanyl awareness forums are part of that response. 

"It's scary to have students exposed to this and the concerns are real so they shouldn't feel alone," Snell said.

In 2022, sheriff’s officials said 57 people in Clark County died from fentanyl-related causes and the Clark County Drug Task Force seized over 135,000 suspected fentanyl pills.

"I don't know that people understand how deadly this is," said Clark County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Skidmore. "[The reason] the CDC talks about 'one pill can kill,' is because it is that deadly."

Tuesday’s full presentation will be available to watch on the Vancouver Public Schools Youtube channel. Another fentanyl Awareness Forum is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Evergreen High School auditorium. A separate presentation will be provided in Spanish on the same night at the Evergreen High School student center.

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