Brazos County family sounding the alarm about the dangers of fentanyl

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -A Brazos County family is on a mission to save lives and raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and other dangerous opioids.

Chari Alberts and her daughter Kylie Fitzgerald have created a Facebook group called Fentanyl Awareness- Brazos County. The group was created after the death of Koby Fitzgerald who died on April 5th, due to fentanyl poisoning.

Loved ones say he purchased a drug called ‘Perc or Oxycodone” that was laced with more than two times the deadly amount of fentanyl. Chari and Kylie say the group was designed to bring awareness to the fentanyl deaths that have occurred in Brazos county and surrounding counties. They also feel that not enough reporting is done to raise awareness of the growing problem.

With that crisis in mind, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter Tuesday to nine state agencies advising them to ramp up their efforts in what he calls a “Fentanyl Crisis.”

In addition, Governor Abbott issued an executive order Wednesday designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and instructing the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to take immediate action to keep Texans safe amid the growing national fentanyl crisis.

“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are falling victim to the Mexican cartels that are producing it,” said Governor Abbott. ”It has become clear that fentanyl is killing Texans with or without substance abuse problems. Unfortunately, most who die from fentanyl didn’t even know they were taking it.”

Chari and Kylie say it’s important that stories are shared about loved ones that are lost to fentanyl poisoning. They say it’s vital that these topics be discussed and talked about so they can bring awareness to Brazos County residents about Fentanyl and its effects.

“He {Koby} was the cut up, the class clown, always out for an adventure,” said Alberts. “People have said there isn’t a problem here but we believe there is. I don’t think that Brazos County or College Station is exempt from what’s happening all across Texas.”

“I don’t want anyone else to die, those pills are still out there. The person who sold them has those pills still out there,” said Fitzgerald. “Teenagers start experimenting in high school or middle school or college students coming into town and never experimented and they try it again. You think you’re taking one thing from something you trust but the thing is you can’t trust your friends.”

Responding to the epidemic and raising awareness are the driving forces behind the work being done by the Texas A&M Opioid Task Force.

According to the CDC in the past year, there have been more than 107,000 overdose deaths, with fentanyl being responsible for nearly 70% of those overdoses and is now the leading cause of death for people 18 to 45 years old.

Joy Alonzo is an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. She says although data on fentanyl-related deaths are limited in smaller counties trends in metro areas tend to tell the story of the larger picture.

“In Texas, unlike other states, we count overdoses by death certificates. In most counties including the Brazos Valley, the death certificate is filled out by a JP or designated court appointee,” said Alonzo. “For 254 counties in the state of Texas, there are 13 medical examiners. Even in counties like Harris County, county officials estimate that overdoses are underreported by at least 2/3′s”

Alonzo says the lack of data is troubling.

“To the CDC we are (Texas) considered non-reporters,” said Alonzo. “Not reporting data is not the same as not having a problem.”

Alonzo says the trends are troubling because fentanyl is being designed to be appealing to younger adults.

“Right now the international drug cartels are targeting children and young adults specifically,” said Alonzo. “These counterfeit tablets are very colorful in rainbow colors to appeal to children and young adults.”

Alonzo would like to see money put toward more immediate life-saving measures like the kits with Naloxone that Texas A&M provides.

“You put it in somebody’s nose (Opens top to bottle, pushed upward) and watch this. I just saved somebody’s life. That’s all it takes,” said Alonzo. " I would like every single citizen in the state of texas to have a naloxone rescue kit and know how to use it.”