Sen. John Cornyn meets with Hays County law enforcement, families affected by fentanyl
BUDA, TEXAS - Every person who spoke at a roundtable discussion on Thursday at Moe & Gene Johnson High School in Buda had one thing in common.
Each family member, school district employee or member of law enforcement in attendance had been affected by fentanyl in some way, and they wanted Sen. John Cornyn to know.
"On August 3, 2022, my wife called me as I was driving home from work, and all I could make out from her cries was, ‘Kevin’s dead,’" said Darren McConville, Kevin McConville's father. "My son took a pill because he thought it would help him sleep at night, and that pill took his life."
Ever since a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths in Hays County started in late 2021, local law enforcement and school districts have taken on the crisis, increasing availability of Narcan, conducting more training for first responders and getting the word out across the community.
According to Dep. Anthony Hipolito, with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, from September 2022 to present day, more than 40 presentations have been given to school clubs and sports teams. They have also presented to schools in other districts.
However, some lingering concerns were brought up at the roundtable. Those included the need for more resources for parents and stopping the flow of the drug over the border.
- DEA: More than 379 million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl seized in 2022
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- Researchers in early stages of creating fentanyl vaccine to prevent overdoses
"It is beyond frustrating. It actually makes me angry that the federal government has not done its job, and we are trying to use every tool available to us to try to get the administration to pay attention to this," said Sen. Cornyn after the roundtable. "As a result of all of you telling the stories and having the courage, I truly believe a lot of other lives will be saved."
Sen. Cornyn also heard from Hays CISD high school students on Thursday who are leading awareness efforts.
"Kevin, whose parents were here today, he went to our school," said Alyssa Jones, a junior. "Seeing that it’s not just an issue in our city, but within our own school, within this place that we go, and we expect to feel safe, that’s what hits hard."
Jones believes making fentanyl test strips available is important so that students who do end up using drugs at least have a safeguard.
Sen. Cornyn voiced support for legalizing test strips on Thursday.
At the state level, multiple bills have been filed this session that would legalize fentanyl test strips.
At Johnson High School, where the roundtable discussion was held, Noah Rodriguez’s jersey number was just retired.
Noah died from a fentanyl overdose last summer.
"I considered him like a little brother, you know, family to me," said Ryan Weeks, a junior at LHS and another member of the Hays CISD Student Advisory Council. "It truly hurt me to see that he was gone."
- Fourth Hays CISD student dies from fentanyl overdose, autopsy reports
- Fentanyl a 'crisis' in Hays County due to rising number of overdoses, officials say
- Fentanyl overdoses suspected cause of death for 3 Hays CISD students
One concern Noah’s mother brought up on Thursday was her inability to get him into a rehab program when he started struggling with drugs.
"When I reached out to these centers, they said that they would not take him without his consent," said Janel Rodriguez. "He can't vote, he can't smoke, he can't drink, he can't do a lot of things as a minor, but yet he has a say on his mental health or possible addiction."
Rodriguez said another ongoing need, even more awareness.
"We haven't been to all the schools," said Rodriguez. "I'll go to Walmart or Costco, and I'm constantly handing out fliers of Noah, and I’ll have parents ask me, ‘What is fentanyl?’’ she said. ‘I look at them, and I’m like, ‘Wow, you really have no idea."