North Texas Advocates Form Anti-Fentanyl Coalition

Fentanyl is now considered the deadliest drug in the United States by the DEA, and it’s increasingly prevalent in Texas where, last year, border agents reported more than a 1,000% increase in the amount of fentanyl seized.

Still, advocates have argued there simply aren’t enough resources to combat the problem.

That’s why Thursday, from across different cities and different lines of work, advocates gathered to make a pledge to work in tandem to fight fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for the majority of last year’s 100,000 overdose deaths in the U.S.

“It’s education. It’s treatment. It’s law enforcement. It’s everybody talking together, everybody saying we’ve got a problem, not waiting for somebody else to solve that problem,” said Philip Van Guilder, Director of Community Affairs for Greenhouse Treatment Center.

Thursday’s meeting was the first for the newly formed Meet for Change Coalition coalition, which Greenhouse spearheaded alongside The Haven Texas and Winning the Fight, a group founded by Kathy O’Keefe after losing her 18-year-old son to drug overdose.

Since then, she’s seen the problem grow, turning her focus from heroin to fentanyl.

“It’s no longer an overdose to drugs. It is poisoning because for most of the people, the majority of the drugs that people are dying from, they don’t know that fentanyl is in those drugs,” said O’Keefe.

That has included young people like 15-year-old Jonathan Helmke, who died in Denton in June after taking what he thought was Percocet, and 26-year-old Cheyenne Little in Greenville, who took hydrocodone laced with fentanyl last year.

With few places to turn, families like theirs have started their own grassroots efforts to raise awareness.

Meet for change hopes to take it one step further.

“We have to get more people with boots on the ground,” said O’Keefe.

Thursday was Meet for Change’s Inaugural meeting. The group plans to come together once a month.

Sunday, which is National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day, Winning the Fight will host a free documentary screening and panel discussion for parents and kids ages 11 and up to help start a conversation about drug prevention. It will be at Flower Mound High School from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

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