KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Fifty officers are tasked with serving and protecting students and staff at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools district, and they hope to do so even when school isn't in session.
As the school year wraps up, Curtis Nicholson, the Chief of Police at KCKPS, wants to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl.
Nicholsan, who spent 29 years with the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, said KCKPS has 70 doses of Narcan on hand ready to be used.
To spread awareness, both KCKPS and KCKPD officers are partnering for community outreach with a focus on fentanyl.
“There are multiple deaths throughout the metro, throughout the country every day — the last thing we want to happen is to have a kid die in our school," Nicholson said. “The fentanyl, we didn’t see it in the schools until midway through the year. I don’t know what caused that to pop onto our radar, but immediately knew we had an issue to address.”
On Tuesday, KCKPD, alongside the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, held an informative meeting on fentanyl at Gloria Willis Middle School for parents and neighbors.
While only 50 people showed up, they were insistent on learning new information.
“I think it’s important to learn more about this stuff, it’s very bad,” said BJ James, a Blue Valley student. “Knowing how bad it is and it affects people, we want to know how can we stop it. How can we see it and know what it is? Knowing how bad this stuff is, you can’t do it because other people are doing it.”
Nicholson said the dangers related to drugs have changed since he was in school.
“Back when I was a kid — it was the D.A.R.E program,” Nicholson said. “Kids would try a joint or beer, there may not be longstanding effects from that. But, the truth is now with fentanyl and other opioids, you could die from trying a drug like this.”
It's a lesson that he says has to be heard out loud.
“I’m very concerned about this fentanyl epidemic,” said Katherine Burks, a KCK great-grandmother who brought her family to the presentation. “I have great-grandchildren. I surely don’t want them to get involved in it. I think it’s something all parents and children should be a part of, so they know about it."
Nicholson said it's important to note his staff have used narcan on students in the district before.
“We’ve issued narcan to kids before — I don’t want to talk about the number of times we’ve done it,” he said. “But it is important to know we have had to use this safety mechanism to save lives in our school district."
According to Nicholson, the fentanyl epidemic has changed the way officers do their jobs.
“We didn’t use to think about saving lives medically, that was a job for fire and EMS,” he said. “But now we are put in a position where we are doing things differently. We have to wear more than the traditional law enforcement has than we have in the past. Especially in a school because our kids are important, we want to make sure they have good, proactive lives after they get out and if they take these drugs and are dying at a young age, then they don’t get those opportunities.”
Now, he hopes the warnings are heard.
“Hopefully they take our warnings, 'don’t try it,' and go about their business,” Nicholson said.