Mother who lost son to fentanyl overdose wants to share message about substance use

Mother who lost son to fentanyl overdose wants to share message about substance use

In January 2023, Thurraya Kent’s son Malcolm died of a fentanyl overdose.

He was 17 years old.

“I want our family and friends to always remember his laugh, his hugs and his talent,” Kent told WJLA reporter Nick Minock. “We’re sandwiched between Mourning Mother’s Day, which some people don’t know exists, and Mother’s Day and Fentanyl Awareness Day, so it’s all falling apart. »

Through this tragic experience, Kent learned a lot about the approach Virginia and Fairfax County take to combating youth substance use.

“It’s hard to learn that your child has a substance abuse problem,” Kent said. “The child recognizes it and says, ‘Mom, I want to get help.’ And then all you do is get on waitlists, waitlists after waitlists, and you call and you call and you write and then someone will say, “Oh , well, we can’t take someone who is on the autism spectrum. Oh, we have a women’s bed but no men’s bed. Or, the closest bed that will cover your insurance is in Texas, or Florida or something like that. And your child looks at you and says, “Mom, I don’t want to go to Texas, but I want to get better.” I don’t want to go so far from home, but I want to get better. So why isn’t this care available in Virginia? Why have we limited so many beds for young people? Unfortunately, our capacity to treat youth in our own state is not meeting demand.

On his behalf, WJLA asked Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin what the Commonwealth is doing to increase the number of treatment facilities for youth, including inpatient care, and how the Commonwealth and insurance companies regulate private treatment facilities for youth. And what is the measure of effectiveness?

In a statement, Governor Youngkin’s press secretary, Christian Martinez, told WJLA:

The Governor’s proposed budget amendments included $1.6 million over the biennium to increase the number of inpatient and residential treatment facilities to serve adolescents with substance use disorders. Its Right Help, Right Now plan includes implementing a pilot program to provide training and education to providers on the treatment of adolescent substance use disorders, including the use of drug treatment when appropriate.

Licensing regulations were recently updated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to adopt the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) evidence-based framework. The ASAM model of care has been widely adopted in Virginia and serves as a model for building the continuum of services under Virginia Medicaid under the Addiction Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program. It includes services ranging from prevention, early intervention, active treatment and recovery. Virginia Medicaid is the largest payer of substance use disorder treatment in the Commonwealth and requires all Medicaid managed care organizations to be trained in the ASAM model for licensing and delivery of services.

Virginia Medicaid has an established contract with Virginia Commonwealth University to conduct an annual evaluation of the ARTS program since its inception in 2017, which includes a review of service availability, emergency department utilization, overdoses, transitions care, service utilization and outcomes that include recovery. Medicaid Assessment – Department of Health Behavior and Policy – Virginia Commonwealth University (

Kent would like a law requiring standardized procedures that keep minor children in emergency rooms after a suspected overdose until a follow-up appointment for treatment is obtained, and a law requiring emergency rooms to test for the presence of fentanyl.

“They don’t test for fentanyl,” Kent said. “The only person who actually tested fentanyl on my son was the medical examiner. This is of no use to me at this point after his passing.

Kent also would like procedures in local schools that help children with identified substance abuse problems succeed in treatment and schooling.

On behalf of Kent, WJLA asked Fairfax County School Board members about the role of the county’s drug prevention specialists and, given the increased awareness of adolescent drug abuse, why are many of them responsible for more than one secondary school.

WJLA asked Kent why this issue was important to her.

“Our children are suffering and we need to figure out how to help them. Having part-time help for something that is a matter of life and death seems a little silly,” Kent said. “We really need to value the lives of each of these children and help them understand that they can recover and move forward. »

Fairfax County President Karl Frisch did not respond to WJLA’s request for an interview, but At-Large school board member Kyle McDaniel did.

“First of all, my heart goes out to this family,” McDaniel said. “No family should have to go through this.”

McDaniel said FCPS currently has 21 authorized drug prevention specialist positions.

FCPS created these positions in 2018 and their goal is to provide education, provide intervention services and really try to bring families, students and community groups to the table in partnership with our partners in county level at the school level. CSB, the community service boards,” McDaniel said. “I think, specifically, when we talk about staffing levels, with 21 positions authorized right now, a few of them are vacant and are being filled. Which, according to you, does not allow one specialist per high school pyramid. Today we have about two dozen secondary schools. What I understand and what I’m told from my side is that we are trying to move these positions to where we have a greater number of cases of these types of referrals and these situations. So it’s quite targeted. I would almost call it a needs-based staffing formula. There is no federal or state standard for staffing like you would have for other positions such as teachers or mental health counselors. So it’s one of those things where we need to target these staff in a way that makes the most sense given the resource constraints that the public school system is facing.

“The (Fairfax) Board of Supervisors has adopted its budget; it is likely that the school system will receive significantly more money. Do you think some of these resources should be allocated to positions like this to address the opioid (and fentanyl) crisis? » WJLA Nick Minock asked McDaniel.

“One of the things we need to do is look from a top-down perspective at how we provide these types of services, whether it’s addiction intervention specialists, health counselors mental. Another factor is the lack of staff. mental health counselors, not just in Fairfax County, but across the country, and not just in terms of hiring, but also in terms of being able to fill those positions with qualified people. As we continue to move through the budget cycle, that will definitely be something that I will be monitoring and paying close attention to,” McDaniel responded.

Kent said Malcolm began self-medicating.

“Is the supplier still there? » asked WJLA reporter Nick Minock.

“Yes,” Kent replied.

“What do you think about this? Does this alarm you? WJLA asked McDaniel.

“One of the things I’m looking at and trying to work with some of our regional partners at the school board level is putting together a regional federal task force where we have schools and law enforcement.” , McDaniel said. . “We have councilors, community groups around the table. The pills and distribution are not micro-contained to a school, whether it is a high school, middle school, or elementary school. This is a regional challenge. I think there needs to be a regional approach to solving this problem.

Kent is also concerned about Annandale and Kratom vape stores producing opioid stimulant-like effects.