Investigations

A Change for Cam: A Central Texas household's push to teach college students on faux capsule risks

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Dwayne Stewart swiped left on his cellphone, and there was a reminder.

Cameron Stewart was a champion hurdler and ran in the course of the Junior Olympics in 2017. (Courtesy Stewart Household)

“It stated textual content Cameron,” Dwayne recalled. “And I am sitting right here to myself like, ‘why on the planet would that be on there?'”

He texted usually along with his youngest son, however the reminder was from months in the past earlier than Cameron’s dying. 

“I simply did it. I texted him. I stated, ‘I really like you, buddy,’ put a bunch of hearts after it,” Dwayne defined. “It is simply typically I obtained to play like he is nonetheless right here, simply to kind of get by the day.” 

The Stewart household misplaced Cameron in March. Their vibrant son with an unbelievable smile was gone in a single day.   

They defined that they had tried to achieve him however after not responding to texts and calls, they anxious and drove to his residence in Leander.

They stated toxicology outcomes confirmed the 19-year-old died after taking a fentanyl-laced Valium capsule.

He had gone to mattress and by no means awoke.

Training is essential  

“He would simply gentle up a room when he’d stroll in,” stated his mother Becky. “He was a fantastic tutorial pupil. He was an unbelievable athlete. He was a hurdler.” 

Cameron Stewart talked about going to Angelo State to join his big brother. (Courtesy Stewart Family)Cameron Stewart talked about going to Angelo State to hitch his large brother. (Courtesy Stewart Household)

The Stewart household just lately shared their heartache with KXAN investigators hoping to assist different households. 

“Nothing is ever going to be the identical for us. And that is what I wish to let mother and father know is this can occur in a break up second. You are along with your son or daughter the day earlier than, and the subsequent day they’re gone,” Dwayne stated.

The household now has a mission known as “A Change for Cam” and hopes it could actually carry consciousness to varsities about much-needed training concerning the hazards of counterfeit tablets.  

They just lately started speaking with nonprofit organizations together with Track for Charlie, which raises consciousness about faux tablets made from fentanyl, and colleges in Austin about implementing it within the curriculum.  

“They have to be conscious, as a result of these people who find themselves promoting these tablets do not care what age they’re promoting to,” Becky stated. “And if any person is strolling to high school with lunch cash, $10, that can purchase him a capsule or two.”

Cal’s Story

The Stewarts’ tragedy has been felt throughout the nation. 1000’s of miles away the Epsteins know the ache.  

The household from Oregon misplaced their son Cal, 18, in December.  

“He made a mistake, you recognize. It was youngsters made errors and realized from them. With fentanyl, should you make a mistake you die,” stated Jennifer Epstein in a video posted on Beaverton Faculty District’s web site.  

Cal’s father Jon stated within the video he had come house for Christmas from faculty and one morning they discovered him unresponsive. He defined Cal thought he was taking an OxyContin, and he ended up with fentanyl.  

“The most effective we will inform, he sought out some Oxy from the road vendor,” Jon stated. “Cal had long-term plans, he had short-term plans. Under no circumstances did he need to hurt himself. We’re sure of that.” 

Faux & Deadly 

The mother and father partnered with their college district in Beaverton, one of many largest in Oregon, after the lack of a number of college students within the final 18 months.  

“We felt compelled to do one thing to stop future losses,” stated Shellie Bailey-Shah, public communications officer with the Beaverton Faculty District. “And these, you recognize, had been youngsters who had hopes and desires and plans, they usually had households who love them and are nonetheless coming to grips with their loss.” 

The Beaverton Faculty District developed curriculum for center and highschool college students and launched a marketing campaign known as “Faux & Deadly” in April.

College students in well being lessons have been studying concerning the risks of shopping for faux tablets on social media. Drugs they assume are OxyContin, Percocet and Xanax however are laced with fentanyl.

Beaverton School District launched a campaign about the dangers of fentanyl after the loss of several students. (Courtesy Beaverton School District)Beaverton Faculty District launched a marketing campaign concerning the risks of fentanyl after the lack of a number of college students. (Courtesy Beaverton Faculty District)

“The tablets are nicknamed ‘Blues’ for his or her widespread shade or ‘M30s’ for the stamp on the payments. The tablets are so nicely made that even skilled customers say that they cannot inform the distinction between a counterfeit capsule and a capsule manufactured by a pharmaceutical firm,” stated the district on-line.

College students additionally hear Cal’s story and learn the way the artificial drug might be as much as 100 instances stronger than morphine and the way only one capsule can kill.

“We had trainings for all our directors in our district about learn how to deal with fentanyl-related incidents and learn how to deal with the drug itself, as a result of it may be very, very harmful,” Bailey-Shah stated. 

She defined one other vital factor the district did was host neighborhood conversations with specialists and Cal’s household.

“I feel that there’s a specific amount of disbelief amongst mother and father like, ‘oh, that might by no means occur to my baby,'” stated Bailey-Shah. “And what we have realized from the households in our district who’ve handled this, that we’re not speaking a few stereotypical drug abuser, these are youngsters who’re experimenting. And what we have realized about fentanyl is that it solely takes one capsule. So, there is no such thing as a such factor as drug experimentation anymore. One capsule can kill.”

Fentanyl deaths on the rise

The district defined on-line already this 12 months in its county greater than 17,000 tablets have been seized by narcotics groups, most suspected as counterfeit Oxycodone. In all of 2020, fewer than 14,000 tablets had been seized.

Bailey-Shah, a mum or dad herself with two boys, stated it is too early to know what sort of influence this marketing campaign may have, however not speaking about it’s now not an choice.

Beaverton School District hopes other districts use the Fake & Fatal campaign across the nation. (Courtesy Beaverton School District)Beaverton Faculty District hopes different districts use the “Faux & Deadly” marketing campaign throughout the nation. (Courtesy Beaverton Faculty District)

She defined when her district was on the lookout for steering and training, there wasn’t a lot on the market to assist with the curriculum.

“I might strongly encourage, you recognize, households to companion with their college districts, their regulation enforcement, their public well being departments, as a result of all these folks play such an vital function in getting this message out,” defined Bailey-Shah. “And if our sources that we have already developed can assist unfold the message extra simply and extra broadly — that is gratifying to us.”

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention issued a well being alert in December 2020 due to a rise in deaths due artificial opioids throughout the nation.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott warned about fentanyl seizures being up already this 12 months virtually 800% over final 12 months.

KXAN investigators discovered deaths are up too in Central Texas. Court docket paperwork element a wave of overdoses between March 2020 and this January — 17 deaths from counterfeit Oxycodone and unlawful prescription tablets in Austin and surrounding cities.

Push to vary terminology

The Stewart household stated implementing training within the classroom shall be key in stopping extra deaths.

“Essential for teenagers to be educated on… learn how to be daring, and learn how to not give in to see strain,” Becky stated. “And so, to have the ability to maintain saying no, and be persistent, as a result of these folks do not hand over once they’re attempting to promote their product.”

Becky stated she additionally realized after speaking to different organizations that there must be a change in terminology when speaking about fentanyl deaths.

The Stewart family hopes "A Change for Cam" will be part of every school curriculum in Texas and nationwide. (Courtesy Stewart Family)The Stewart household wish to make “A Change for Cam” and have Beaverton’s “Faux & Deadly” curriculum in all Texas Colleges. (Courtesy Stewart Household)

“Cam did not die of an overdose. He was poisoned with a capsule containing fentanyl. The very phrase overdose signifies that somebody took an excessive amount of of a substance they knew they had been taking. Cam had no thought he was taking a capsule containing fentanyl, so in essence, he was poisoned,” stated Stewart.

She stated organizations working to boost consciousness fear misinterpreting these deaths as overdoses as an alternative of poisonings may imply many households will ignore the warning and assume overdoses occur to solely households coping with dependancy and or substance abuse points.

The Stewart household stated it doesn’t should be any person who’s having an issue with alcohol and medicines.

“It might be a child at a celebration for the very first time, and somebody arms them a capsule and that is it,” Becky stated.

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