Rep. Scott Peters, Millennium Health and Others Gather to Urge Awareness on Fentanyl Risks as Students Return to School
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – September 5, 2023 – Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that has infiltrated every community in America, killing tens of thousands along the way, including many children and teens. In fact, fentanyl-related deaths among children increased more than 30-fold over the last 10 years, with the vast majority of deaths in those 15-19 years of age.
Today, San Diego leaders and experts alongside father of local high school student, Kai Atesalp, an Escondido high school student who died of fentanyl poisoning this past summer gathered at San Diego Mesa College to discuss San Diego’s drug overdose crisis, and ways to help save lives through education and awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit pills.
Today we raised awareness about one of the biggest public health threats our nation faces,” said Rep. Peters. “Thank you to Millennium Health and Mesa College for your determined efforts to keep our communities safe, as well as the Atesalp family for sharing Kai’s story in hopes of keeping other young adults’ lives from being tragically cut short.”
“Teens may be seeking out what they think are real pharmaceutical medications for anxiety or other mental health struggles, and others are experimenting for fun, but these are not legitimate medications, they are deadly pills that contain illicit fentanyl,” said Millennium Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Angela Huskey. Fentanyl is colorless, odorless, and tasteless; it is impossible to know which pills will be deadly and pills in the same batch can have widely varying levels of fentanyl, like the amount of chips can differ in a batch of chocolate chip cookies.”
Emergency and Addiction Professional Roneet Lev, MD added, “Addiction is a chronic, yet reversible disease of the brain. The disease starts in middle school. But treatment is possible, and the earlier we catch the disease the better the outcome. That is why it pays off to be vigilant to red flags of possible drug use. Don’t avoid difficult conversations and questions with young people. If drug use is discovered and faced head on and early, treatment and recovery is much easier.”
According to Dr. Ashanti Hands, San Diego Mesa College President, “Institutions of higher education are responsible for nurturing the brilliance that exists in our communities. This works best when those bodies and minds are healthy and well,” stated San Diego Mesa College President Dr. Ashanti Hands. “Our students are at risk for Fentanyl overdose, so we are committed to keeping them safe through education, prevention, AND counter-active measures.”
Ramsey Atesalp, the father of Kai who died of fentanyl poisoning this summer due to ingesting a counterfeit pill concluded by saying, “We’ve seen through the death of our son Kai, how taboo of a subject fentanyl is. many people whose loved ones have been killed by fentanyl poisoning and those who may have survived have felt the stigma of being categorized with negative things keeping the grim and increasing reality in the dark. The more knowledge we have and the sooner we can get it of how fentanyl is being misused, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals are killing people from every walk of life, the sooner we can put up a proper fight against this increasing epidemic.
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Representative Scott Peters’ Press Secretary