HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a somber day for students and staff at a school in Hartford as they returned to class Wednesday after a seventh-grader died of a fentanyl overdose. Following his death, city and school officials have put several resources in place to help.
The 13-year-old boy ingested fentanyl and collapsed inside the gym at Sport and Medical Sciences Academy last Thursday, police said. He died Saturday.
Hartford Police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said investigators found about 40 small bags of fentanyl in powder form in two classrooms and the gymnasium. Students and staff couldn’t return until health officials completed massive decontamination and cleanup efforts and deemed the building safe.
“Any area where fentanyl was found was cleaned,” Liany Arroyo, the director of Hartford’s Department of Health and Human Services said. “Any area the students might have walked through, or gone through, was cleaned. This is walls being cleaned, floors being cleaned.”
When students and staff returned to school Wednesday, additional support staff and therapy dogs were available. All nurses within Hartford Public Schools will receive Narcan training by the end of this week, and the district will supply Narcan to all schools “in the near future,” officials said.
“As we grieve this tragedy, we also focus on everything we can do, not just in schools, but across the board to try and combat an epidemic that’s taken thousands and thousands of lives, not just in our state, but nationwide,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said.
The city and schools will also expand mental health and wellness services and substance abuse and overdose prevention services for the school system and the community.
Hartford Public Schools will partner with Sandy Hook Promise so all middle and high school students can participate in Say Something training, which focuses on ways to recognize warning signs their peers may exhibit, as well as ways students can share the information with a trusted adult.
“We train students how to recognize those warning signs in their peers and give them the tools to then take that information to a trusted adult, who can get that individual connected to the help, the services, the support, or whatever it is they need before it becomes more serious,” Sandy Hook Promise CEO Mark Barden said.
These training sessions will occur between Jan. 24 through 26, officials said. As a potential supplement to the existing middle and high school curriculum that covers drug and alcohol awareness, more awareness resources specific to younger students will also be identified and recommended.
“Although substance abuse is rare in the younger grades, we must explore age-appropriate enhancements to our curriculum and identify new grants to expand our mental health and substance abuse tools and programming,” Bronin said.
Connecticut’s Chief Education Charlene Russell Tucker vowed to work with lawmakers on future strategies.
“Schools are meant to be safe places and spaces for learning, for friendship for achievements for growth as well as all the other support services that we provide all our students,” Russell Tucker said. “As a statewide community, we must continue all our efforts to keep illegal drugs out of our schools.”F
For the rest of the week, a police cruiser will be parked outside the school during arrival and dismissal times. Random safety screenings, such as bag searches and no-touch wanding, will also take place.
Hartford Police said the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the Hartford Police Department Tip Line at 860-722-TIPS (8477).