Mira Loma High School, district and Sacramento county work to address fentanyl crisis

As the national crisis of fentanyl abuse continues to ravage communities across the country, schools like Mira Loma High School are trying to do something about it. 

Mira Loma recently held a school assembly on the dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl comes in pharmaceutical and illegally made forms, and most cases of overdoses are related to the illegally made variety.

At the assembly, students learned how fentanyl is distributed. Fentanyl is illegally available on the drug market in various forms, such as powder and liquid. Because opioids can be “laced” with fentanyl (fentanyl is in the opioids), many users are unaware of the heightened danger of drugs they are consuming.

Michael Bender, an IS English and IB theory of knowledge teacher, offered a mixed assessment of the assembly’s possible impact.

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I walked out of it hopeful that some students learned something beyond the surface knowledge they had on the subject,” Bender said. “Part of me thought that they don’t do drugs, and that this had nothing to do with them; another part of me felt like they were remaining ignorant to something that will affect them or their friends later, and this was now lost knowledge.”

Still, Bender said the assembly could be considered a success if it leads to one life being saved. 

“I had mixed reactions to the effectiveness of the assembly,” he said. “But if one student walked out informed, if one student ends up saving another student’s life, then it was all worth it.”

The statistics tell it all.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 150 Americans die every day from overdoses that relate to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. CDC data show that from 2012 to 2022, fentanyl-related deaths in the US increased by 2702%, to 73,654. 

Work in local schools to combat fentanyl isn’t just happening at Mira Loma.

In an interview, Melissa Bassanelli, Superintendent of the San Juan Unified School District, outlined the district’s current plans and actions to address the fentanyl epidemic. 

“Fentanyl use and overdose is a serious concern for educators regardless of whether there is one case or many cases,” Bassanelli said. “That’s why schools, including ours in San Juan Unified, have taken steps to help educate our students, educators and families on the dangers and to put into place immediate response plans, like having Narcan on site, should an incident occur on a school campus.

“We’re committed to doing what we can to discourage the use of fentanyl and other substances and to keep our students and staff safe.”

Sacramento county officials are working to decrease the severity of the issue. District Attorney Thien Ho, in an interview, shed light on the severity of the fentanyl epidemic. 

“While our office does not have data on the prevalence of fentanyl use among students, we do know that drug dealers are targeting kids and teens on social media and selling them fentanyl in the form of fake prescription pills,” Ho said. “Because these drugs are sold on social media, we know kids of all backgrounds and ages are accessible to fentanyl dealers. Our Crime Lab data shows that 98% of the most common street pill seized by law enforcement in our county are fake and contain fentanyl.” 

Ho said the county is tackling the fentanyl epidemic head-on as an issue. 

“We are working with law enforcement to intercede and try to stop the flow of fentanyl into this country and into Sacramento County,” he said. “We are also creating a regional fentanyl response team so that when someone dies from fentanyl poisoning, we can start the investigative process early on and quickly to collect evidence needed for murder or manslaughter charges.”

Ho said there are actions people can take to become more informed, such as paying close attention to public service announcements on social media, TV and audio streaming sites, digital website banner ads, digital billboards and print publications.

“The fentanyl epidemic needs to be addressed from multiple angles,” Ho said, “including supply, distribution, prosecution and education prevention efforts.”


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