WASHINGTON – Today, on National Opioid Awareness Day, Representatives Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) introduced bipartisan legislation to save lives by educating students about the dangers of fentanyl poisoning.
The Fentanyl Awareness for Children and Teens in Schools (FACTS) Act will replicate local education programs that have successfully curbed student deaths from synthetic opioid overdose. The bill will also develop a federal interagency task force to fight the synthetic opioid crisis through education and prevention and improve federal education and health data collection efforts to understand and highlight the effects of synthetic opioids on youth.
“Awareness saves lives. Educating our young people about the fentanyl crisis and the perils of fake pills will go a long way towards stopping further tragedies in our communities,” said Rep. Kiley. “I want to thank Laura Didier of A Song For Charlie. After losing her son Zach, Laura has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and has undoubtedly saved lives through her efforts. I am grateful to Representative Bonamici for partnering with me on this vital legislation and am hopeful it receives strong bipartisan support in the House.”
“We can save lives by educating students, families, and educators about the dangers of fake pills laced with fentanyl,” said Rep. Bonamici. “Jon and Jennifer Epstein turned their grief into action after they lost their son Cal, helping create an educational program to keep students safe. I’m introducing the bipartisan FACTS Act with Congressman Kiley to make effective awareness programs like Fake and Fatal available to more students across the country and put a stop to tragic deaths from accidental fentanyl poisoning.”
“An accidental fentanyl poisoning forever changed our family,” said Jon and Jennifer Epstein. “Like many youth still today, Cal had no idea that something 50x more powerful than heroin was being made into fake pills that look exactly like real pharmaceuticals and sold on social media for a few bucks. Cal shouldn’t have bought what he thought was prescription medicine online, which was a horrible mistake; however, had no idea the risk he was taking which sadly turned out to be fatal. The FACTS Act is sure to reduce the number of families from suffering the devastation ours did by giving youth the latest facts and information about today’s drug landscape, delivered by trustworthy sources. We’re incredibly grateful to Rep. Bonamici and the other members for bringing forward and supporting this valuable legislation; closing the knowledge gap will undoubtably save young lives and lessen the future burden of harmful substance use. There are no magic wands in this crisis and this is far from the only thing needed, but this will certainly make a significant difference.”
“As a mother who lost a child to this scourge, I am grateful to see two members of Congress from opposite sides of the aisle introduce this legislation. I want to thank Representative Kiley and Representative Bonamici for introducing the Fentanyl Awareness for Children and Teens in Schools (FACTS) Act, which will bring awareness to this issue and save lives,” said Laura Didier, Outreach Coordinator at Song For Charlie.
“Fentanyl and counterfeit pills are putting our school-age youth at higher risk of overdose than ever before,” said Ed Ternan, President of Song for Charlie, a nonprofit that educates kids and families about the fentanyl crisis. “Collaboration between public health and education is key to designing effective programs, and this bill provides the resources for these local partnerships.”
Only 2 in 5 young Americans consider themselves knowledgeable about fentanyl, according to Song for Charlie. The organization, which is dedicated to raising awareness about fake pills, also found that only 36 percent of teens are aware that fentanyl is being used to create counterfeit pills.
The FACTS Act is endorsed by: Song for Charlie; National Education Association (NEA); National PTA; National Association of School Psychologists (NASP); AASA, The School Superintendents Association; National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP); National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); American Psychological Association (APA); National Association of Counties (NACo); and US Conference of Mayors.
A fact sheet on the FACTS Act can be found here, and the full text can be found here. The legislation:
- Creates a pilot grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for partnerships between local or state educational agencies (LEAs or SEAs), local or state public health agencies, and nonprofit organizations to provide education, awareness, and prevention regarding the misuse of synthetic opioids;
- Convenes an interagency task force led by the Secretaries of HHS and Education (ED) to coordinate and improve federal responses to synthetic opioid overdose and misuse in youth. The task force will also include officials from HHS, ED, and subagencies within each respective agency; parents of youth who died from an overdose of fentanyl or another synthetic opioid; and representatives from national nonprofit organizations working to raise awareness about and prevent misuse of synthetic opioids by youth;
- Makes amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide professional development for school personnel regarding synthetic opioid misuse and overdose, and make amendments to LEA and SEA plans required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to describe how they will engage teachers, school leaders, parents, and other entities to address and prevent the misuse of synthetic opioids by youth;
- Makes amendments to key federal education data collection efforts, including the Civil Rights Data Collection and the National Center for Education Statistics’ School Crime and Safety Data, to identify the prevalence of synthetic opioids in public secondary schools and disciplinary outcomes for students using or in possession of synthetic opioids in public secondary schools;
- Allows school-based health centers to use their funding for Naloxone to increase the availability and accessibility of a critical overdose reversal drug in school settings; and
- Makes amendments to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey, and conducts an evaluation of the effectiveness and reach of the CDC’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System.
The FACTS Act is cosponsored by Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR).