FL first lady announces school assemblies, toolkits, to warn kids about fentanyl and other drugs


Nancy Ackerman, a Seminole County mother, joined First Lady Casey DeSantis in a roundtable this week and told the story of her 19-year-old daughter overdosing on fentanyl and dying.

“I don’t even call it a drug. I just call it poison,” Ackerman said. “Too many people I know have lost their children to fentanyl, in particular.”

For all the mums, dads and family members who have felt the pain of drug addiction and death, Thursday’s panel discussion this week shone a light on efforts to try to stop the scourge, starting with schools from Florida.

First Lady DeSantis announced a new toolkit and public messaging campaign to educate students about the dangers of drug use.

“Back when we were in school, it was ‘Just Say No,'” DeSantis said. “It’s really ‘Just say no, but here’s why.'”

The initial “Just Say No” campaign references a 1980s education campaign led by United States First Lady Nancy Reagan, who died in 2016. Other programs aimed to reduce drug use among children, such as the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

Casey DeSantis has been pushing a statewide drug education initiative called “The Facts. Your Future,” which focuses on what the First Lady calls “prevention services” to “give kids the facts to make the right decisions about drug use.”

“Now we’re really starting to gain momentum and get really good results for what we knew at the time was the right thing to do,” she said.

She was joined by Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who spoke about how childhood drug use can impact the development of young brains.

“Adolescents and children exposed to drugs are more likely to develop addiction as adults,” Ladapo noted.

The Ron DeSantis administration has taken other steps to reduce drug use among children, such as passing new standards that require Florida schools to provide instruction on kindergarten drug use and abuse. in 12th grade.

The roundtable highlighted new curriculum ‘t00lkits’ for free schools to provide information about drugs.

The toolkit provides a fact sheet on the different types of drugs and their effects, resources for where to get help if someone is struggling with an addiction, and other information.

For example, the toolkit discusses opioids, noting that although it is a drug that can be obtained legally with a prescription, such doses can still lead to addiction.

The toolkit draws information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that opioids were implicated in more than 70% of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019.

The toolkit also provides a ‘conversation map’, which attempts to refocus common perceptions children may have about drugs and alcohol and helps students have ‘difficult’ conversations with friends or online.

Another aspect of the program is to organize educational assemblies on the effects of drugs, during which children would gather in their schools and hear from different points of view how drugs can impact their health, their life plans and other consequences.

Some of these speakers might include medical professionals discussing the biological effects of drugs on the body, law enforcement officers describing the legal repercussions of getting caught with drugs, and first-hand accounts of the impact of drugs on people’s lives.

That’s where people like Nancy Ackerman and others who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses come in.

Ackerman said her daughter’s problems started with “a little drinking problem” and she even went to rehab.

“And a few months later, we don’t know exactly how she met people, but she ended up meeting people who introduced her to heroin, which turned out to be pure fentanyl and she overdosed. and passed away,” Ackerman said.

Alton Voss, who wanted to play for the NFL, a dream that was derailed when he developed an opioid addiction while battling pressures and expectations while attending college. He also spoke at Thursday’s roundtable.

“I started to suffer in silence. And then this weekend, the “fun” started spilling over into the weekdays until it became an addiction. And I finally left the team and quit football,” Voss said. Her addiction continued for years after that, being prescribed Oxycontin and Roxicodone by a doctor.

He began treatment for his addiction in 2011, which he says was the last time he was used.

Those kinds of stories are the ones Casey DeSantis wants to put forward in these school assemblies.

The roundtable retreated to some messaging from Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration about undocumented immigrants and foreign countries bringing drugs into Florida communities.

“Drugs are coming faster and faster than ever before,” Casey DeSantis said. “The crisis at the border has led to a massive influx of narcotics, like fentanyl.”

Coincidentally, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sent out a press release earlier this week calling on the Biden administration to “take a tougher approach to stem the influx of deadly fentanyl into Florida and the country.” in general”.

She joined 15 other state attorneys general in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to take “immediate action to stem the scourge of fentanyl from China and Mexico.”

“Our federal government cannot sit idly by as China ships chemicals to produce highly lethal fentanyl to Mexico for delivery to our country,” Moody said in Thursday’s press release about the letter. “Today, I call on Secretary Blinken and the U.S. State Department to crack down on the two countries, which have formed an international triangle of death where thousands of pounds of deadly opioid drugs flood our streets. This must stop. , now.

The press release cites data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Medical Examiner’s Report, which outlines which drugs were present in a person’s system at the time of death or which drugs resulted in a person’s death in 2020 .

The report notes that of some 243,000 deaths in Florida in 2020, 14,700 people had medication in their system at the time of death.

The drug that caused the most deaths was fentanyl, which killed 5,302 people. The report said cocaine was the second deadliest drug during this period, with 2,400 deaths.


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