Montgomery County Public Schools are seeing a spike in the number of youth drug overdoses, according to Dr. Patricia Kapunan, medical officer for the schools– and Identity is hosting a series of bilingual conversations to share information, as well as participating in larger forums sponsored by MCPS and the County. It is a great cause of concern for parents as well as the youth in our community as synthetic opioids like Fentanyl are increasingly present in other illicit drugs.

On Monday February 6, 2023, Identity hosted a virtual conversation for over 100 parents and students on substance use in the schools. Two members of the community who have lost a loved ones to opioid overdose spoke emotionally about their experiences, including Cristina Rabadan who lost her son to an accidental Fentanyl overdose and has become an activist on this issue. Identity staff presented information on prevention and treatment resources in the school and community and strategies for parents from the Opioid Prevention Campaign such as: talking early and often about the risks; supporting healthy activities; helping youth practice refusal skills; establishing clear consequences; prioritizing family time; knowing the signs and symptoms of substance use disorder; and intervene early because it is a disease. One participant said “thank you for this space. The courage with which they shared their personal stories is admirable and motivates us to act before it is too late.” Another parent said, “We should unite as parents in a group to help your children, my children, our children”.

More talks are planned at individual schools where Identity has programs, both in-person and virtual.

In January, Identity hosted a virtual forum in Spanish for nearly 100 Latino parents to learn ways to recognize and prevent risky behaviors in their children, with speakers from the police department, our Youth Opportunity Centers, and the Maryland Treatment Center.

Identity will also collaborate with the larger county effort around this issue through the “Montgomery Goes Purple” initiative – which will present live forums with experts in youth substance use and addiction recovery at several county high schools. We plan on staffing resource tables and helping run bilingual break-out groups for Spanish-speaking youth and parents.

In addition, MC DHHS will be training our school-based staff on Narcan, the nasal spray that blocks the effects of opioids and helps restore breathing. The next Family Forum on Fentanyl, hosted by Montgomery Goes Purple, will be held on Saturday February 25th at Northwood High School from 9:30 12:30 p.m. For more information on substance use prevention resources, see Montgomery Goes Purple, Celebrating Recovery and the Addiction Policy Forum in multiple languages.