GREENSBORO, N.C. — Here in Guilford County, the Public Health Department has seen a 200% increase in drug overdose deaths over the past decade.
Now, parents, educators, and students are worried about that problem bleeding into the schools.
WFMY News 2's Itinease McMiller spoke to a mother about the problem and how it impacted her family.
"It really captures the love we had for one another,” GCS parent and Northern Guilford counselor, Leslie Deaton said.
The love Deaton has for her son Will is spread across nearly every surface of her home.
“It’s a wall I had done to capture his many accomplishments,” Deaton said.
The tribute wall is Deaton's daily reminder to fight to bring awareness that substance abuse can grab ahold of anyone.
“On July 28, 2021, I got the absolute worst phone call of the human experience. I was informed that I lost my child to a horrific poison, fentanyl,” Deaton expressed.
Deaton lost her son at the age of 23.
Now, she’s making it her life mission to make sure no other parent has to bury a child due to a drug overdose.
“I have no choice but to educate and make people aware. I can't stand anyone walking this walk. To have knowledge is power. I have to speak for Will,” she said.
Deaton is now a counselor at Northern Guilford High School.
She sees students experiment with drugs and alcohol at school weekly.
“They seek to self-medicate through opioids, vaping alcohol. We have a problem. It's not just Northern Guilford it's across GCS,” Deaton continued.
Jay Simpson is a Northern Guilford High School teacher.
He said the drug use is concerning.
“There have been many instances of students abusing and taking it too far in the bathrooms. I've personally witnessed EMS and fire coming to the campus,” Simpson said.
Faculty is worried the pills students think are Adderall or Xanax could be laced with Fentanyl. To come up with solutions, Simpson and Deaton held a student Fentanyl town hall in December.
A survey on drug culture in the school was part of that town hall.
The responses were alarming. Many students said drug use is a major problem, but they also shared solutions.
“They wanted to see a stronger presence of adults, in the bathrooms, working through the cafeteria, extra curricula activities, anywhere drugs can be present. Students say there needs to be an addressing of mental health and students need to be heard,” Simpson said.
The Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Northern Guilford High School is working to raise awareness about the growing drug problem among high school students.
they're hosting a Fentanyl town hall for parents on Feb. 22 Northern Guilford High from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Everyone is welcome.