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Suspected fentanyl found at Bayfield Middle School

Marshal’s Office investigating how pill was introduced to locker room
A counterfeit pill containing what’s suspected to be fentanyl was discovered by a student in a locker room at Bayfield Middle School on Monday. The Bayfield Marshal’s Office is conducting an investigation, Marshal Joseph McIntyre said Thursday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Suspected fentanyl was found Monday at Bayfield Middle School, Leon Hanhardt, superintendent for Bayfield School District, said Thursday.

The Bayfield Marshal’s Office was contacted after a counterfeit pill containing a substance suspected to be fentanyl was discovered in the middle school locker room, Hanhardt said.

Bayfield Marshal Joseph McIntyre said a student found the pill on the floor of the locker room and reported it to a teacher.

“It’s very concerning,” McIntyre said. “The first thing I’ll say is thank god we had such a responsible student who was aware that this wasn’t right. It was suspicious. They turned it over to a teacher.”

Hanhardt said to the best of his knowledge, this is the first instance of suspected fentanyl turning up in any Bayfield school building.

McIntyre said the same. The Marshal’s Office has responded to reports about marijuana in the schools and other such cases, but Monday marked the first instance of fentanyl being found within in a school district building.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes fentanyl as a “powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

Hanhardt said the presence of dangerous drugs is “not something to hide from” and the school district must “tackle this head on” through education about the dangers and the effects of all drugs.

The Cortez-Montezuma Narcotics Investigation Team found 728 fentanyl pills at Chad Blackmore’s residence in 2021. (Courtesy of Detective Victor Galarza)

“We have to be very transparent with the community,” he said. “We have to recognize that we have these issues in our community and in our buildings. And that we have to be proactive with education to our students, to our parents, to our community.”

Hanhardt said the district’s administrative team has approached the Bayfield school board about allowing Narcan, a potentially lifesaving nasal spray medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in Bayfield schools.

The school board passed the policy at a board meeting on Tuesday, Hanhardt said, and training for Narcan use is underway for faculty and staff members.

“I think that it’s important to know that we were being proactive in ensuring that we have Narcan in our buildings and that we have to (treat) that as a necessity,” he said.

McIntyre said fentanyl is a “dangerous and deadly drug” that is affecting communities of all sizes. It isn’t just an urban, big city issue or just a rural, small community problem.

He referenced a triple fatality that occurred in Cortez on March 4 that was attributed to a combination of alcohol and fentanyl. An Animas High School student died late Dec. 10 or early Dec. 11 of fentanyl intoxication near Durango.

“This is a national crisis and fentanyl is everywhere,” McIntyre said. “Unfortunately, the Durango school district was affected by it. And it’s now, unfortunately, we know that it’s in our school district.”

The marshal said Colorado House Bill 22-1326, Fentanyl Accountability and Prevention, doesn’t go far enough to address the opioid epidemic.

The bill proposes making possession of fentanyl of 1 gram or more a Class 4 felony. McIntyre thinks the law should have zero-tolerance for possession.

“This is the most deadly, dangerous narcotic that law enforcement and communities are dealing with, and we’ve got to get our hands around this to try and solve this problem,” he said.

The first thing the community can do is to take the fentanyl issue seriously. He said the attitude that “it will never happen here” is wrong.

“We are going to work with the school district on doing some educational stuff,” he said. “We want the community to participate. We want the parents and students to participate.”

McIntyre also suggested that parents talk to their children about the dangers of fentanyl use, and added that adults need to be having those conversations with each other as well.

The marshal’s investigation had not homed in on any suspects as of Thursday, McIntyre said. He said his office is asking anybody with information about how the counterfeit pill was introduced into the Bayfield Middle School to contact the Bayfield Marshal’s Office.

The Marshal’s Office tweeted a copy of the school district’s news release on Monday and followed up with tweets about HB 22-1326 and an educational video about National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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