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Montgomery County parents demand more transparency after recent potential drug-related emergencies in schools

Youth overdoses in Montgomery County increased by 77% from 2021 to 2022 according to police data.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County parents are demanding more transparency following a series of medical emergencies at schools that, according to police, are possible drug overdoses.

A Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) spokesperson says that they have administered naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, the medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses, 11 times this school year.

On Tuesday, the principal at John F. Kennedy High School, Dr. Joe L. Rubens, sent a letter to parents informing them that a student had a "medical emergency."

“Our health room staff assessed the student and emergency services were notified. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue and Montgomery County Police responded to our school immediately," said Rubens. 

The President of the Parent Teacher Student Association at John F. Kennedy High School, Kristen Walker Painemilla says MCPS can do more to get ahead of the rumors surrounding these cases.

"Information continues to get out via social media. Then we have false information, and then we have panic. MCPS really has to get on the ball with better crisis communication," says Walker Painemilla who says she got a phone call about the incident from the principal.

Walker Painemilla says school security goes hand in hand with the drug related issues the school system is experiencing, "Montgomery County Schools are suffering from a shortage in security. We know a lot of these incidents are happening in bathrooms."

Just last week, MCPS and other county partners, including the police department and the state's attorney held a conference to address the increase in youth overdoses that jumpedY

According to the numbers provided by Montgomery County Police, there were 48 overdoses among people 21 or younger in 2022; 11 of those were fatal. In 2021, there were 27 overdoses and 5 fatal. 

"We need to start talking to the kids about this now," says Dawn Iannaco-Hahn about the rising fentanyl related cases in Montgomery County. The mother of two boys, 12 and 14, says the recent incidents has prompted her to talk about the issue. 

County agencies say the details they can provide about these incidents is limited due to federal laws that protect sensitive patient information, especially when it comes to minors.

"As a mental health therapist, I completely understand confidentiality, HIPAA and things like that. We don't need to release the child's name, grade, details, but what we do not say is that there was an overdose," says Iannaco-Hahn.

MCPS will be hosting a forum for families about fentanyl and naloxone training this Saturday at Clarksburg High School from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Naloxone kits will be distributed to the families in attendance.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that naloxone had been administered at a high school in Germantown.

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