Fentanyl education classes are California's latest tool to help fight the deadly crisis

The curriculum is scheduled to be implemented for the 2026-2027 school year

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In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic in California’s classrooms, students will soon learn about the dangers of fentanyl.

It's all part of a plan to help put an end to the fentanyl crisis. The state law signed this week will require districts to incorporate lessons about the deadly drug into their curriculum.

Erik Gonzales’ mother Karrie says this is desperately needed. She says a high school knee injury opened the door to her son's opioid addiction during his sophomore year, when he was overprescribed opiates.

Years later, in June 2020, Karrie says that addiction ended with her son’s death at the age of 21 because of a fentanyl-laced pill.

"I can hear my heart shatter every time I take a breath, and it does not get easier," Karrie said.

She’s hoping the new fentanyl education bill that went into law this week will help save other parents from the heartache she and thousands of others have suffered in San Diego County.

The bill will require California school districts, as well as charter and private schools that offer health classes, to include a course about fentanyl in their curriculum.

"They're seeing it on the internet anyway. You're able to buy these pills and this stuff off of Snapchat or different social media sites,” Karrie said.

"It's one of my biggest fears as a parent — that our kids, who not with any intention, might be harmed by fentanyl," Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego), who introduced Assembly Bill 2429, said.

The course will include:

  • The risks of using fentanyl and how lethal and addictive it can be
  • How to buy and use test strips and save people who've overdosed by using the overdose reversing medication naloxone or Narcan.
  • How to tell if other drugs have been laced with fentanyl

"Fentanyl is, unfortunately, now being found in all sorts of drugs, in different types of products,” Alvarez said. “Young people need to be aware that just because they think that some substance that they might be taking may be an alternative drug that's not labeled as Fentanyl, doesn't mean it doesn't have it."

Angelica Flores thinks the classes are a good idea considering the crisis. Her 15-year-old son could end up taking the course when it's offered at his high school.

“Whether its peer pressure that's why, I think it’s such a good idea to educate them on it," Flores said. "When they're out there, other than what the parents and teachers teach them, they’re going to hopefully make a better decision at the end of the day."

"They can teach us as best as possible, but we need to live our life and make our own choices and be able to think smartly and rationally," Diego Luna, Flores’ son, said.

Since Erik’s death, Karrie spends time helping and educating others at various events.

“It's the demand," she said. "Until we deal with the demand, there will always be a supply to business."

Alvarez says he's gotten nothing but positive feedback during community forums about the law. That's why he says no waiver for students to opt out of the course is currently offered. But he says that could be a possibility in the future.

The curriculum is scheduled to be implemented for the 2026-2027 school year.

A new billboard in Lakeside features the faces of those who have died from fentanyl, NBC 7's Omari Fleming reports.
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