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State lawmakers to propose legislation to help combat youth drug overdoses

The proposed legislation comes after two students overdosed on fentanyl last month. One of the students died.

CONNECTICUT, USA — Editor's note: Video above originally aired Feb. 3

Two state lawmakers are taking action following the overdose of two Connecticut students in the last month. 

State Rep. Liz Linehan (D-103), along with Senator Saud Anwar (D-3), co-chairs of the Committee on Children, plan to introduce two pieces of legislation in the upcoming legislative session.

The move comes after two students in the state suffered overdoses from fentanyl, one of them fatal. 

A seventh-grader who attended The Sports and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford was rushed to the hospital Jan. 15 where he was later pronounced dead. Police said narcotics found near the 13-year-old later tested positive for fentanyl. 

A subsequent investigation revealed the Hartford student had 40 bags of fentanyl with him at the school. Investigators reportedly found a hundred more bags at the teen's home. The potency of the drugs stood at 60%.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill. 

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RELATED: Fighting Fentanyl: An in-depth look at the opioid crisis in Connecticut

"A typical bag, glassine bag, on the street – you could suggest some are coming in at around one, two, maybe three, four percent [potency]. You know, you get a kilogram inwards and upwards of maybe 12% – maybe. But, of late, those purity levels have been rising " Sgt. Chris Mastroianni, a supervisor with the Hartford Police Department, Intelligence Division explained. "If you encounter fentanyl in and of itself, and it's at a 60% purity, you could be a life-long addict – a hard-core 20, 30 bag-a-day user – and you will not survive."

On Monday, a 16-year-old Bloomfield student also reportedly suffered a fentanyl overdose.

Police said the student overdosed from marijuana that had been laced with the drug. 

Officials said officers and school staff provided first aid, including the use of multiple doses of Narcan to help reverse the effects. The student was rushed to the hospital for further medical attention before being released. 

Following the death of the Hartford student, advocacy groups are repeating calls they've made for several years for schools to stock naloxone — often delivered as a nasal spray under the brand name Narcan — and train educators, support staff and students to recognize signs of opioid use and overdoses, especially because younger people are falling victim more frequently. Hartford officials announced plans to supply naloxone and train staff in it's use on January 19. 

The powerful opioid fentanyl has been showing up in marijuana, illicit pills and other substances accessible to school-age children, experts say. Fatal overdoses in the U.S. are at record levels, fueled by fentanyl, and have been increasing among younger people, national data shows.

Now, Linehan and Anwar plan to introduce two pieces of legislation to help combat the fight against fentanyl at home. 

RELATED: What parents need to know about fentanyl, and its even stronger cousin carfentanil

The first piece of legislation will propose funding for schools, youth agencies, and local health districts to get the resources they need to help treat drug overdoses such as Narcan. It will also provide funding to help train staff in detecting and responding to the early signs of drug use.

They said the initiative will be completely funded for a two-year period and would not be mandated on schools.

"The bill will be a train-the-trainer model which will ultimately imbed trainers around the state who can then continue to train others, making it the most cost-efficient and long-term way to introduce training programs that support children," said Linehan. "It's important that we not only supply our schools and youth organizations with the tools to treat drug overdoses but with the proposer staffing and training to recognize drug use in its early stages and support young people before things worsen."

The second piece of legislation would require safe storage information to be provided with every opioid and THC prescription. 

The Department of Consumer Protection, Department of Public Health and the Department of Children and Families would be responsible for supplying this information and creating the informative handout.

“Our state keeps experiencing tragedies in schools where children overdose on fentanyl and related drugs. This is unacceptable and must change. By putting common-sense policies in place, namely better training to discover, respond to and detect drug overdoses and requiring safe storage of drugs, as well as increasing access to lifesaving resources like Narcan, we can continue to reorient our efforts toward prevention to protect our youth against the ever-present scourge of the opioid crisis," said Anwar.

Nearly one-third of the Connecticut high school students misuse pain medications that were given them or took them from their home or someone else's home, according to a 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System study.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has opened a 24/7 hotline. Call during all hours of the day, 365 days a year. The number is 1-800-563-4086.

RELATED: Para-fluorofentanyl, metonitazene now adding to US overdose crisis

Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jglatz@fox61.com.  

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