Hays County law enforcement is cracking down on fentanyl after four students die from overdoses
Several law enforcement agencies in Hays County are revving up efforts to curb fentanyl overdoses.
The efforts come after a string of student deaths from overdoses rocked the Hays CISD community. Officials there announced this week that yet another student died from a fentanyl overdose, bringing the death toll to four. It takes only a small amount of fentanyl, which is often used to lace counterfeit pills, to kill someone.
"We want to reach out to every person we can in Hays County and educate them," Sheriff Gary Cutler said at a joint press conference with other law enforcement agencies Tuesday.
Cutler said his department will be partnering with local fire departments and EMS to start tracking and mapping overdose calls.
"We can use this tracking system to help all investigators," he said.
Tyson Hodges, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said fake prescription drugs laced with fentanyl are being made to look authentic, often mimicking the same design of pills like Percocet or Xanax. The pills circulating in Hays County are round and light blue, with an M-30 stamped on them.
The pills are coming from the Austin area, Hodges said. Ongoing investigations point to drug cartels in Mexico as the manufacturers.
Hodges said the DEA is joining the Hays County Health Department and other local law enforcement agencies as part of an overdose task force.
"The goal [of] the task force is to crack down and arrest violent criminals peddling fake fentanyl or fake pills containing fentanyl," Hodges said.
Last week, the San Marcos Police Department arrested a 20-year-old whom they suspected to be a fentanyl distributor. Police found almost 400 counterfeit pills in his residence. He was arrested, charged and is currently in the Hays County Jail on a $175,000 bond.
The other goal of the DEA task force, Hodges said, is to educate the public and the youth about the dangers of fentanyl.
Hays CISD spokesman Tim Savoy said the district will be focusing on educating students.
"We're educators, so education is what we do and that's what we're good at," Savoy said. "This is a real threat. And we have lost children to this. And so we have to make that effort to do what we can."
The district recently released educational videos, which include interviews with the parents of a student who recently died, to play for students in class.
"This is going to be an ongoing conversation for us," Savoy said. "It may be smaller group discussions at our schools. Any angle that we can reach the students and parents we're going to pursue."
Savoy said the problem of fentanyl in Hays CISD continues, despite the recent deaths. Just within the last week, he said, the district has had two instances where students had to be given Narcan, an emergency medicine that can prevent overdoses.
The district is stressing the fact that even small amounts of fentanyl can kill.
"It's just not worth the risk," Savoy said. "It just takes that one pill and then you might have that fatal dose."