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Queen Creek Fentanyl Awareness event Aug. 20 at Founders' Park

The Facing Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day at Founders' Park, 22407 S. Ellsworth Road, is a free family and pet-friendly event that will also showcase food trucks, shaved ice, bounce house, Narcan training, fentanyl test strips and free raffle prizes.

For the second year, a Queen Creek Fentanyl Awareness event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 20 at Founders' Park in Queen Creek.

The Facing Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day at Founders' Park, 22407 S. Ellsworth Road, is a free family and pet-friendly event that will also showcase food trucks, shaved ice, bounce house, Narcan training, fentanyl test strips and free raffle prizes.

Event organizers say it's in remembrance of the loved ones who lost their lives due to illicit fentanyl poisoning and to acknowledge the devastation this drug brings to hundreds of thousands of affected family members and friends. Advocates and educators will use this day to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl.

This coordinated day of response from fentanyl awareness organizations from around the country will include participation by affected families who will share their lived experiences as part of the effort to warn and inform the general public, local youth and the unsuspecting.

Volunteers will distribute educational resources, free Naloxone for overdose treatment and free Deterra packs for medication disposal - while supplies last.

Speakers at the event will include: Pinal County District Attorney Kent Volkmer; Queen Creek Police Chief Randy Brice; host of "Chase the Vase" podcast, Brock Bevell; and parent advocate, Misty Terrigino.

Topics to be discussed: illicit fentanyl and drug awareness, community resources, challenges specific to Queen Creek and San Tan Valley and social media challenges.

Local organizations that will be in attendance: Pinnacle Psychology, Victory Recovery, Southeast Valley Community Alliance and Alexander Neville Foundation.

Featured speaker and parent advocate Misty Terrigino is a San Tan Valley resident featured by Queen Creek Sun Times. Read her story HERE.

She believes her daughter bought the deadly opioid she used from someone she knew on a social media platform.

"Kaylie had been having back pains and I know all a person needs to do is respond to a SnapChat and you can have anything delivered right to you, just like DoorDash," Terrigino said. "I mean, it happened at home and what's even more alarming is that I'm a registered nurse."

Terrigino, who was an intensive care unit nurse with Banner Baywood, now works as a nurse at the Florence Detention Center for Arizona Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. She said she sees firsthand how easy it is for fentanyl-laced drugs to cross our borders in all forms, from pills to patches.

"Fentanyl is just flowing through our borders and it's terrifying because these transactions are being done by kids on SnapChat so there is no trace of the transactions," she said. "They are selling on social media to build up their clientele and if something happens they just delete and start fresh. With minors there should be more due diligence on who sold to them because these deaths are just considered overdoses and then it's a closed case. That's what happened to us here with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

"So my mission is raising awareness because these (fentanyl overdose) numbers are skyrocketing and it can happen to adults, too. There is beer, marijuana, vape pens and other products out there being laced with fentanyl," Terrigino continued. "She was my only daughter and we were close. I'm a nurse and it still happened to us. I know her back was hurting and I gave her ibuprofen for it, but her friend said she had bought opioids before through social media, seeking relief."

Terrigino noted the importance of parents checking their child's social media and knowing their passwords to not only their social media accounts but for their phones and laptops.

On May 19, 2021, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to exclude fentanyl testing products from the list of illegal drug paraphernalia and Terrigino is left wondering what would have been.

"What if my daughter would have had that and tested the pill? I don't want her taking it, but I'd do anything to have her home safe with me now," she said. "Yes, it's an overdose, but you're poisoning someone if they don't know what it is. People don't want to talk about it. I didn't notice anything looked off, but looking back she was moody, but she was 17. Sometimes, the really hard stuff is what you have to share to make things better. If I help one person, for me I've done some justice for Kaylie."

International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day is observed on Aug. 31 every year and is used to draw attention to the problem of overdose and to reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. It’s also a day that’s used to acknowledge the grief felt by friends and family members when people overdose. The official colors for this day are purple and gray, also the official colors of the Queen Creek Fentanyl Awareness event.

To honor her daughter's memory, Terrigino organized a memorial garden for International Overdose Awareness Day in August 2021 at Founders' Park that included 2,629 ribbons in memory of every person who has overdosed from any type of drug and that's become the tradition at this Queen Creek Fentanyl Awareness event.

"It's so important, we had 200 to 300 people come out and we did test strip training and I met so many parents who, like me, have lost a child to an overdose," Terrigino said. "We have to let people know that overdose looks different than what it used to be. We must eliminate these deaths from one pill that your child thought was something else and it was laced with fentanyl.

"Our goal is to get Narcan (a prescription nasal spray used for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose emergency with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness or not being able to respond) into every high school," Terrigino said. "I spoke with a mom who was shocked that her child ingested a ritalin laced with fentanyl. What these kids are buying and getting from their friends is deadly. In many cases, the friends don't know they are selling fentanyl-laced opioids."

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved for treating severe pain, such as advanced cancer. However, illicitly manufactured fentanyl is on the streets in Arizona and increasing at an alarming rate. These pills are extremely dangerous. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration data demonstrates that two out of every five counterfeit pills contain enough fentanyl to kill a person.

This devastating issue is one that impacts a growing number of families and the Queen Creek Unified School District recently asked parents to take the time to review and share important information with their teens and young adults about illicitly manufactured fentanyl. They emphasized telling students to only take pills prescribed by their doctor or provided by their parents. "One pill can kill. Talking with your children about the dangers of fentanyl can truly save a life," QCUSD posted on its website.

"At our event, two girls came up to our table and took our handouts and thanked us," Terrigino said. "The girls said, 'There were four of us and now there's only two of us,' and that broke my heart. They said their 16-year-old friends had nowhere to go when they got hooked on fentanyl-laced opioids. It's stronger than morphine." 

The two poison centers of Arizona have seen a significant increase in poisonings related to fentanyl from illicit M30 tablets. These counterfeit pills are very dangerous and can be so toxic they cause death.

“Fentanyl is the most common adulterant (substance) in almost all street drugs in our community right now, and even in very small amounts can be fatal,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center. “We are working with the state and county health departments to warn Arizonans of the dangers of these drugs.”

Recent seizures by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) included millions of fentanyl pills coming into Arizona. Some states have reported cases of fentanyl in vaping pens resulting in overdose. New substances such as xylazine (a sedative primarily used in veterinary medicine) are also making their way into these illicit drugs. Roughly half of the M30s seized by the DEA agents recently were shown to contain lethal amounts of fentanyl.

“More than five Arizonans are dying per day from opioid overdoses and fentanyl is the leading cause,” said Steve Dudley, PharmD, DABAT, managing director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “Now more than ever, we need to promote harm-reduction strategies to prevent these overdoses, and that’s what we aim to do with the OAR Line.”

The Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral Line, or OAR, can provide free assistance 24/7 for the public and health care professionals at 1-888-688-4222.

Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix has an opioid use disorder treatment program called “Banner University LINK,” through which the emergency department provides naloxone – a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose – without a prescription to a caretaker, friend or loved one of patients who have been admitted for a drug overdose. 

If you or a loved one believe there has been exposure to any poison, medication or chemical, call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. The poison centers can assist in evaluating and managing the issue, and help determine if it is necessary to seek additional medical attention.

The poison and drug information center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix provides free and confidential poison and drug information to the public and health care professionals. The hotlines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They serve all of Arizona and are part of 55 centers across the nation that are accredited by American Association of Poison Control Centers.

For more information about how to talk to your children about the dangers of fentanyl-laced drugs, visit the Talk Now AZ website.