3 Hartford seventh graders hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl

A DEA agent and others in law enforcement gather outside The Sports and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford, Connecticut. On January 13, three seventh-graders were rushed to the hospital after being exposed to fentanyl at school.

    HARTFORD, Connecticut (WFSB) -- The Sports and Medical Sciences Academy closed on Friday after a 13 year-old overdosed on fentanyl.

On Thursday, around 10:45 a.m. three seventh graders were rushed to the hospital after being exposed to fentanyl at school.

The Sports and Medical Sciences Academy is a magnet school in Hartford, with about 600 students.

One of the students, a 13-year-old boy, was unconscious.

"Initial reports indicate that CPR was initiated by the school nurse on one student and HFD personnel took over performing CPR until relieved by responding medics," said Mario Oquendo Jr., public information officer, Hartford Fire Department. "Rhythm returned for that student and CPR was stopped."

It's believed that student was in a classroom and then went to the gym.

All three students were transported to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

The 13-year-old seventh grader is in grave condition after officials say he ingested and overdosed on fentanyl.

Two other students, also seventh graders, only complained of dizziness after being exposed to fentanyl and are being monitored at the hospital.

Family members were notified.

Officials initially said a teacher was also transported to Hartford Hospital, but later said that she was "highly upset about what she witnessed" and was treated at the school.

The school was placed in a code yellow. That means students have to stay in place.

Drug sniffing dogs went through the building and additional bags of fentanyl were found in two classrooms and the gym.

Police believe a student brought the drugs to the school. Investigators are still trying to figure out if the two other students ingested fentanyl.

Mayor Luke Bronin had a powerful message for parents.

"This is one more lesson that fentanyl is a poison, these drugs are a poison. Please, if you are a parent, have that tough conversation with your child tonight. If anyone offers, suggests, that they experiment with, ingest some substance that they think is a drug, they don't know what it is, don't do it, stay a mile away, and for God's sake, please report it so we can try to protect your child, their friends, everything," Bronin said.

Students and staff were dismissed after their shoes were decontaminated with bleach and other chemicals.

Because police are still not sure what else was in the drug, they had to treat it as a worst case scenario.

"I’m shocked about what’s going on. I just don’t understand how fentanyl reaches the schools so it's heartbreaking to know they were in contact with it," one parent said.

The CDC says some fentanyl is approved to treat pain, while others are illegally made. All types known to be abused and leading to death.

Here in Connecticut, data shows drug overdose deaths have spiked.

From January to November 2021, there were more than 1,200 people dead.

"When it starts to happen to children, that's not good for business, so you will see an exaggeration of efforts to respond, which you hate to say, but something bad has to happen for people to take their head out of the sand," Mark Jenkins, the executive director of the Connecticut Harm Reduction Alliance, says.

Mark deals with overdose cases every day and says people are afraid to talk about the help that's out there, like Narcan, a medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, something Jenkins says should be in schools and could have been used on the seventh grader.

"It falls out. It goes just into your hand like that, into your nose and push it, so now I just ingested a dose of this. I'm not going to fall over. I tell people, 'Why would I do that? Are you an idiot?', is to show you no harm, no foul," added Jenkins.

Jenkins says local and state officials need to address the overdose situation, because it's not just an urban issue.

Jenkins says you reach out to his organization if you would like to train or learn about overdose prevention.

Police are now looking for whoever brought the substance to the school. No arrests have been made yet.

Local and state officials were on scene for several hours and they are still examining to see what else was is in the fentanyl.

In a letter to families, Principal Alison Giuliano said that all classes at SMSA are cancelled and the school will be closed Friday.

School social workers and counselors will be available either virtually via Google Meet or in-person at the Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Mobile Psychiatric Crisis Services is available for students. SMSA community members can reach out to them by calling 211.

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