Fentanyl is being held responsible for the deaths of an increasing amount of children, and states are passing laws to try to prevent more. The Texas state legislature enacted Tucker’s Law, an education campaign, this past summer to inform people in middle and high schools. In California, lawmakers are considering Melanie’s Law, which would ensure schools include opioid overdoses in their safety plans, Politico reports. States enacted more than 100 laws during their 2023 legislative sessions seeking to raise awareness, increase penalties for dealers and prevent overdoses of fentanyl. Since Congress passed landmark opioid-fighting legislation in 2018, the number of fatal overdoses has increased by 64%, from about 67,000 to nearly 110,000 last year. At least 1,800 teens died between July 2019 and December 2021 from taking fentanyl, a 182% increase compared to the previous period.
“There’s not enough prevention in schools. Resources are lacking for all types of substance use,” said Sara Lowry, a middle school social worker whose 17-year-old son died of a fentanyl overdose in December. In Congress, two Coloradoans in the House, Republican Doug Lamborn and Democrat Joe Neguse, introduced in July their Protecting Kids from Fentanyl Act. It would permit states to use money from a $146 million federal grant to educate children and provide training and the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to school employees. Parents and public health experts say increasing rates of mental illness in children, combined with the ease with which kids can buy pills online, is proving deadly. They say more needs to be done, including increasing the number of facilities and health care professionals who can treat teenagers with opioid use disorder.