(3TV/CBS 5) - Last month, a Scottsdale high schooler almost died.

A frantic dad called 911 after he found his son sweating and unresponsive. He couldn't wake him up.

The 17-year-old from Notre Dame Preparatory High School overdosed, and it took paramedics several doses of Narcan to bring him back.

The close call was a wake-up call for a lot of Valley parents.

"I’m not only a DEA agent, I’m a father. When we see the amount of young lives being snuffed out, all of us should be very concerned," said Doug Coleman, a special agent in charge with DEA Arizona.

[TIMELINE: Emergence of the opioid crisis]

Numbers from the Scottsdale Police Department show drug-related incidents skyrocketed last year at Cactus Shadows, Desert Mountain and Coronado high schools.

Nearly every one of them involved synthetic opioids.

The teen at Notre Dame took a pill laced with fentanyl. Police say he bought it from a 16-year-old student, who was arrested.

"There’s no possible way for someone to know what’s in a tablet when they’re gonna take it," said Agent Coleman, calling the fentanyl crisis the worst drug epidemic he's ever seen.

[RELATED: What is fentanyl and why is it 'the deadliest drug in the world'?]

Near the border, the Tucson Unified School District is not taking any chances.

"We’re seeing more and more fentanyl come down here," said Nikki Stephan, the district's director of health services. "I wanted to make sure if we could even save one life, that we would go about that."

[RELATED: Tucson Police Department crime lab at forefront in battle against fentanyl]

Stephan says nurses and assistants at all 85 TUSD campus health offices are trained to give Narcan because there's no time to waste with an overdose.

"We only have four minutes before death starts," she explains.

She had a simple, but a critical message to schools and parents.

"Talk to your family. Talk to your students. We need to get serious and we need to have an education of health in our schools," said Stephan.

At Skyline High School in Mesa, a program called, "Coyote Strong" is part of that conversation, aiming to give kids "something better."

"Pick something better instead of worrying about drugs or alcohol," said student Madeline Jacobsen.

"We know that it’s in our schools and our job is to intervene, educate and hopefully prevent," says Skyline principal, Tom Brennan, who says drug prevention efforts have changed dramatically over the years.

[RELATED: 13 ways to talk to your kids about Fentanyl]

"We are in a different place than DARE and ‘Just Say No.’ We don’t just try and scare the kids. It’s also about informing their self-awareness and self-management," explains Brennan.

Talia Scheletsky, a social worker at Skyline, counsels students about drug use.

"Teenagers are naturally risk takers and so you give them an opportunity to take a risk, and that’s the kind of stage of life they’re at," describes Scheletsky.

If teens take a risk with opioids like fentanyl, the nurse's office has Narcan on hand.

[RELATED: Fentanyl deaths skyrocketed more than 1,000% over five years in the US. Here's who it's killing]

In fact, all of Mesa schools are stocked with the life-saving drug even though it's not a requirement by the state.

"What I want to do is, I want to help kids feel like they're not alone, that they're not the only ones kind of handling these different struggles, and that there's (sic) help and support," the social worker explains.

She also teaches students about the lasting effects of drugs on their brains, specifically the prefrontal cortex which isn't fully developed until they are 25 or 26.

[RELATED: The different types of opioids]

"It’s going to influence their abilities to make decisions, to think rationally, and those things can have real, long-term impacts," explains Scheletsky.

A $150,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family was awarded to 38 high schools throughout Arizona this year. That money funds Skyline's "Coyote Strong" program.

"We're providing education. We're providing support. We're providing relationships and really positive activities for kids to get involved in," describes Scheletsky.

[RELATED: The good, the bad and the ugly: The need for Fentanyl]

Students are actively involved in encouraging and supporting their peers who are struggling and refer someone who needs help.

"You can go and talk to somebody, and we'll make you feel at home and safe when you're at school," said student Mackenzie Garren.

The grant money also provides an on-campus prevention coach.

Kevin Cleveland builds relationships and trust among the students and knows first hand what they're dealing with.

"I got sober about four years ago and very quickly realized that I wished when I was in high school and I started to experience problems relating to drugs and alcohol, that I had an adult that I could go talk to," explains Cleveland.

He also works at Pathway Program, where fighting the most deadly opioid in the world is now priority No. 1.

"Even a 13-year-old a few weeks ago overdosed on fentanyl," he said.

Cleveland says social media plays a major role in today's epidemic.

"You have these teenagers that are walking around comparing their insides to someone else’s outside. Instagram - all it is, is someone’s highlight reel. They don’t see the next day when they’re fighting depression or fighting something going on at home or any of that," explains the prevention coach.

[RELATED: Arizona officers using Narcan to save overdose victims]

He says the sites are also popular ways for kids to access the killer pills.

"Where did you hear about it? Where did you get it? Well, Snapchat," he said.

Direct messages or DMs as young people like to call them. It happens so quickly and even with Snapchat, there’s no evidence behind it. It disappears. If an adult picks up their phone, they can’t access any of that," describes Cleveland.

That's why Principal Brennan says "Coyote Strong" focuses on keeping kids busy and supporting them as they face tough choices along their journey through high school.

"We want to show them how to be fulfilled without drugs in their life, through clubs, through the arts, through sports. Developmentally, those kids are looking to find their way, find their path and our job as adults is to help them with a positive path," said Brennan.

The Arizona Department of Education holds two-day conferences several times a year, bringing in medical experts to teach educators about the signs and symptoms of the latest drug trends and how to respond to those emergency situations.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Fentanyl's Fatal Fallout]

They say at schools' requests, Student Resource Officers from local police departments teach students about the dangers of drugs and the legal ramifications of committing related crimes.

AZDE also offers Title IV-A money to districts wishing to create or expand their drug education and prevention programs. This year, 10 districts applied for those funds.

Heather Moore anchors the Primetime News at 8, 9 and 10 weeknights on 3TV. She regularly reports on issues important to Valley residents, so be sure to watch 3TV weeknights.
 
 


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