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Parent of recovered addict has advice for how to talk to kids about drugs

A Prince William County parent is sharing her son's story of recovery and advice after two teens died after taking counterfeit Percocet laced with fentanyl.

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Many parents are concerned and shocked after two teenage boys died from a drug overdose in Prince William County. 

Investigators said the juveniles died within 48 hours after they took counterfeit Percocet laced with the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. How the children received the drugs is still under investigation, but the similar circumstances prompted police to issue a warning and urge parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drug misuse. 

"I kind of burst into tears because it's something I didn't want to hear again," Prince William County mother Lise Ford said. "That could have been my child."

Ford shared the story of her son and his journey to recovery after she learned about the recent overdose deaths. At 32, her son has been clean and sober for seven years after years of opioid and heroin abuse. 

"Drugs are not necessarily for getting high but taking away the caring or whatever is going on in your brain," she said. "He was arrested more than once. It got him in trouble and he went on the run, but he eventually couldn't it anymore and turned himself in."

Ford stressed the need for more public awareness and personal stories in the forefront to reduce stigma. She observed how many families dealing with the same reality are feeling ashamed. 

She encouraged parents to have the conversation about dangers of drugs, especially with the presence of fentanyl, with their children as as early as possible. 

"There needs to be more of a conversation and there needs to be more of an openness by the people who have gone through it," Ford added. "It's hard to have those conversations even when they're little but when they get older, you need to know how things make them feel. You need to trust your child but they have to trust you first. You tell them how you will always be there for them."

Having that tough conversation with your kids must be addressed when the number of fentanyl-related deaths is growing, per Dr. O'Tilia Hunter of Prince George's County's Local Behavioral Health Authority. 

Fentanyl is a widespread problem that continues to affect many communities in the DMV. 

RELATED: Northeast DC neighborhood asks for help fighting drug use

Dr. Hunter told WUSA9 how parents need to realize that drugs can affect anyone's child and have the courage to bring it up. 

"You have to have a very direct conversation," she said. "You have to say, 'I'm not saying you're going to do it, but in the event you're around people and doing it, I want you to be aware of what's going on.'"

Fentanyl has become the driving force in many drug overdose deaths, especially since it can be laced in recreational narcotics. Adults and juveniles are unknowingly consuming the opioid without realizing fentanyl is in it.

Community Services, the public behavioral health provider for individuals with serious mental illness, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities in Greater Prince William, is aware and very concerned regarding the increase in opioid use and dependence among youth in our community and across Northern Virginia region, according to a statement from Community Services Executive Director Lisa Madron.

"We know that there are several contributing factors to this, but a very significant one is that pills are being sold and distributed in our community known as “Perc 30s,” which are pressed fentanyl," Madron said. "These pills are what many of our opioid-dependent youth are using."

Community Services provides Same Day Assessment for mental health and/or substance abuse treatment or referral, provides prevention and treatment services in the clinic, community, and public high schools, and runs at-risk youth prevention groups in the community. 

Since January, Prince William County Community Services has been coordinating youth opioid use brainstorming sessions with local stakeholders. The purpose of the brainstorming sessions is to examine the scope of the problem, current gaps in services, and strategies for addressing the treatment needs of youth struggling with opioid use disorders.

These are the avenues we have been exploring or implementing to address this issue:

  • Used our DMAS MAT Technical Assistance Grant to receive additional information about what other communities in Virginia are doing to treat youth with OUD.
  • Providing SUD Group Therapy services through New Horizons Program, Probation Services
  • Coordinating and collaborating with Juvenile Detention Center, MESH, and Manassas Addiction Center (MAC provides youth Medication Assisted Treatment) around services for youth
  • Applied for System Of Care grant to expand our youth treatment staff and hire family support peers.
  • Our Behavioral Health and Wellness staff have provided community sessions for parents and professionals focused on substance use, dangerous new trends, and resources. The Behavioral Health & Wellness Team has also been conducting REVIVE training that helps people understand opioids and overdoses and respond to an overdose situation with naloxone. Narcan nasal spray is then given to participants in the program. An updated schedule of REVIVE training can be found on the CS website under Events.
  • Public Service Announcements regarding “Perc 30s” that will help inform youth and their families about fentanyl contained in these pills (due to start on Fentanyl Awareness Day, May 10)

RELATED: Verify: Can a stranger be held liable for administering Naloxone to someone overdosing?

RELATED: Police: 2 teen deaths in 48 hours connected to counterfeit Percocet laced with fentanyl

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