‘One pill kills’
Starr County Criminal Justice students join statewide effort aimed at Fentanyl awareness
Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez (above) speaks with students during a Fentanyl Awareness Forum in Starr County. With October marking the first ever Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Month in Texas, Criminal Justice students at South Texas College’s Starr County campus have joined the statewide campaign, in partnership with Texas Health and Human Services and Gov. Greg Abbott, to raise awareness on the dangers of fentanyl poisoning in local communities.
With October marking Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Month for the first time in Texas, Criminal Justice students at South Texas College’s Starr County campus have joined the statewide campaign, in partnership with Texas Health and Human Services and Gov. Greg Abbott, to raise awareness on the dangers of fentanyl poisoning in local communities.
STC students from the Criminal Justice program recently sponsored a Fentanyl Awareness Forum that brought a panel of speakers to the college’s Starr County campus including the Texas Department of Public Safety-South Texas Region, 229th District Attorney Hon. G. Allen Ramirez, Starr County attorney Rene Montalvo and officers with 229th High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA).
“Today we are here to learn and comprehend the dangers of fentanyl as well as all the efforts to provide awareness and defend against its deadly use,” said Starr County Criminal Justice President Margarita Reyna. “We created this special panel today to help answer questions and what we can do against this threat. Many people in the community may not be aware of what is being put inside the drugs they are taking both in a legal sense when they buy their medicines in Mexico and in traditional illicit drugs common in our region. You have to be very careful.”
Students and our entire community need to know this drug is out there and just how serious it is. People are dying of fentanyl even with tiny doses, so they need to be aware of their surroundings because it can be put in anything, not just in a pill form.
Fentanyl is the name for the potent synthetic opioid drug that has created the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Lately, Mexican drug cartels are mass-producing and trafficking counterfeit prescription pills that are laced with fentanyl into Texas, and it is also being found in common prescription drugs like oxycodone, oxycontin and Xanax, which makes it extremely difficult to distinguish.
About four out of every 10 fake pills laced with Fentanyl contains a deadly dose, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Gov. Abbott announced a $10 million fentanyl awareness campaign along with the plan to distribute doses of Narcan, a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and save lives, to every county in the state.
“This is a poison… and it’s so potent,” said DPS Spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez, who was among the panelists invited to speak to attendees at the forum. “This drug is everywhere and it’s the single-most deadliest threat we are facing right now because you find it in pills that look like medication or even candy.”
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, according to a Washington Post analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021.
Fatal overdoses involving fentanyl among children ages 10-19 increased by 182% from 2019 to 2021.
“This came about so we can begin to provide education and awareness of fentanyl that we know is spreading not just in our region, but across the United States with devastating effects,” said STC Criminal Justice Instructor and club advisor Oscar Garza. “Students and our entire community need to know this drug is out there and just how serious it is. People are dying of fentanyl even with tiny doses so they need to be aware of their surroundings because it can be put in anything, not just in a pill form.”
Near the end of the event, the Forum also served as a solemn remembrance for Ryan Bagwell, 19, from Mission, Texas who tragically passed away from fentanyl in 2022. Bagwell's mother Sandra, who is an Angel Mom and dedicated to speaking on the dangers of Fentanyl, spoke to attendees and offered a moving tribute to her son's life.
Ryan went with a friend to Mexico to purchase medication one day in 2022 which turned out to be complete fentanyl, Bagwell said.
“With fentanyl, only two milligrams can kill but my son had 11 so that one pill he took could have potentially killed five to six individuals. He didn’t have a chance,” Bagwell told attendees at the forum. “Don’t buy medication from Mexico. Don’t risk your life, educate your families and let them know it’s not safe.”
For more information on the state campaign visit the official website here.