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Online summit for local teens scheduled in wake of increasing fentanyl deaths

San Diego State students taking notes in this undated file photo.
Angela Carone
There were a lot of SDSU students in the audience. KPBS is located on the campus of San Diego State University.

An online summit will be held next week to address the dangers of fentanyl for local middle and high school students following an uptick in fentanyl-related overdose deaths across San Diego County.

Schools countywide are invited to take part in the summit, which will feature testimonials from overdose survivors and a keynote speech from former NBA player Chris Herren, who struggled with an opioid addiction for much of his career.

The event, dubbed SDNeeds2Know, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 16 and is being organized by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the San Diego County Office of Education, and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher, among others. Officials say San Diego County fentanyl-related deaths are increasing exponentially, with nearly 700 related deaths this year and some victims are as young as 16 years old.


"Over the past few years in San Diego County, the number of fentanyl deaths, especially among young people, has more than quadrupled," District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "This is why we planned this countywide summit focused on middle and high school students, who are asked to log on to this summit from whatever class they're in for an hour packed with life-saving information."

RELATED: San Diego County looks for solutions as fentanyl deaths continue to rise

Part of the summit will address the pervasiveness of fentanyl-laced street drugs.

"San Diego needs to know that the pills or powder currently sold on the streets, likely contain fentanyl," Stephan said. "Literally one pill can kill and has killed in every neighborhood of our county."

Organizers asked parents, who are encouraged to attend, to contact schools to ask whether their child's classroom is participating in the summit.


"It's our job as educators to make sure that students are made aware of the dangers that opioids and other drugs present and this summit is an opportunity to hear from individuals who have experienced peril at the hands of these powerful drugs," County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold said. "To curb these alarming trends, we must continue to create school environments that are safe and welcoming to all students."

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.