SAN LUIS, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The San Luis Police Department arrested three people after they were allegedly found in possession of more than 3,200 pills containing fentanyl at San Luis High School Wednesday morning.
Police say school resource officers arrested two 18-year-old female students, identified as Noemi Hernandez-Madrigal and Alessandra Cardenas-Hernandez, and a 16-year-old male.
They say Hernandez-Madrigal had three separate plastic zip-lock bags containing more than 3,200 blue M30 pills.
The pills came back positive for the presence of fentanyl after pills were field tested at random from each bag.
Cardenas-Hernandez had possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a narcotic drug and possession of illegal drugs in a drug-free school zone. The 16-year-old male also faces the same charges.
Police say the clandestinely made fentanyl showed a total weight of 373 grams. The pills have an estimated street value of up to $48,000.
They say Hernandez-Madrigal and Cardenas-Hernandez, both residents of San Luis, were booked into the Yuma County Adult Detention Facility for felony charges and the male was booked into the Yuma County Juvenile Detention Center for felony charges as well.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Lt. Marco Santana said police believe Hernandez-Madrigal intended to sell the synthetic drug that is gaining popularity as an alternative to other opioids, like heroin. Pills sell for about $10 to $15 each.
The opioid crisis has gripped communities across the U.S.
Exactly two years before the students’ arrests, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed an emergency declaration to address a growing number of fatal overdoses. The state instituted a number of measures, including training officers around the state to use a powerful spray that helps prevent death in people who are overdosing and new rules mandating how opioids can be prescribed.
In San Luis, a largely Hispanic city of about 33,000 people that draws thousands of farmworkers to work the nearby fields, officials have spent the past year waging a campaign against opioids. Border authorities said they arrested a 16-year-old American boy at the border in September for trying to sneak dozens of fentanyl pills into the country by wrapping them around his legs.
“We happen to be a border city, so (we’re) on the front lines. It’s gonna be smuggled through our city,” Santana said. “But the main thing here is that we continue to combat that opiate issue that we have, not just here.”
Santana said his department has on-campus officers at all the schools and that all officers carry Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses.
School nurses in San Luis also have the drug on hand, said Eric Patten, a spokesman for the students’ school district, Yuma Union High School District #70.
Many schools around the country do this, and some states even mandate it.
“The arrests were certainly concerning for the district. As educators, you never want to see young people resort to that type of life-altering, negative decision,” Patten said.
Shane Watson with NotMyKid says the problem is not contained to the border town of San Luis.
"It's already up here. We've seen it up here, we've seen it in north Phoenix, we've seen it in Scottsdale," said Watson.
He says parents need to prepare their kids for the day they encounter the deadly drug.
"It's important to have a conversation to explain to them how dangerous this really is and to alert a trusted adult, whether it's a parent, a coach, a teacher, a religious leader, so that that child can get help," he said. "We can't wait on the government to eliminate this, it's not going away, so we need to address this on the family level."