Orange Park mom, Florida’s Attorney General working to end drug use within our youth

·3 min read

Your college years can be some of your best years. They can also be some of your most dangerous, according to Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Moody is warning college kids about the use of fentanyl saying, “one pill can kill.”

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Action News Jax’s Princess Jhané Stepherson sat down and spoke with Debbie Rizer. Her son Derek was a rising athletic star and his talents took him all the way to Arkansas University. Derek was a punter and a quarterback there. But after a change of heart, Derek decided to attend Charleston Southern University. His dreams were cut short after he overdosed on fentanyl.

Debbie Rizer is the mother of Derek Hatcher, they were an inseparable mother-son duo.

“Aw, man, Derek was definitely a mama’s boy, no doubt about it, he was a good kid. I was a single mom most of his life and we were very close,” says Rizer.

But Debbie was shaken to her core after she lost her son to a fentanyl overdose in February of 2016.

“He was at a college party, a college party and the kids said ‘try it, come on try it, it won’t kill you, just try it,’ and he did,” says Rizer.

Derek tried prescription pain pills. Debbie tells me the pills were often prescribed to injured athletes on campus and they were oftentimes shared on campus as well.

“He was shooting up the pain medicine, and from that he eventually turned to heroin and heroin eventually became fentanyl,” says Rizer.

Since Derek’s death, Debbie has dedicated a big part of her life to raising awareness for substance abuse and addiction in an effort to protect our youth with The Derek Hatcher Foundation.

“Fentanyl is killing off a generation, it’s destroying kids, it’s destroying families,” says Rizer.

Story: City of Jacksonville to offer Narcan training classes twice a month to combat opioid epidemic

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has the same goal — saving our youth. That’s why Moody wrote a letter to President Biden last month just before school at universities in the state would start back up.

Moody asked that President Biden declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction. A part of Moody’s letter reads “Fentanyl has become the leading cause of death among adults ages 18-45, claiming more young lives than COVID-19, cancer, car accidents or suicide.”

Attorney General Moody says that one pill can kill — and according to Florida Health, Moody is right. They say fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid up to 100 times more potent than morphine. As many milligrams as about five grains of salt can be fatal.

“I never have good dreams about him, all my dreams are about fighting to get him into rehab,” says Rizer.

Action News Jax reached out to multiple universities around Jacksonville, asking: how do you combat drug use on campus grounds? Jacksonville University released the following statement:

“Jacksonville University commends any and all efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of illicit drug use. JU employs strategies that focus on educating students about such dangers and supporting them in times of crisis. All incoming Jacksonville University students are required to participate in a mandatory drug and alcohol education program. JU’s Campus Safety and Security Department also offers drug and alcohol seminars throughout the academic year. Additionally, Jacksonville University has a medical amnesty policy for students. This means, if a student is experiencing a crisis or emergency involving drugs or alcohol – or if they are with a friend who’s in crisis – the student can report it to their Residential Advisor or our Campus Safety and Security officers without facing disciplinary action. This policy supports our commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of our students, and it encourages them to get the help they need.”

The University of North Florida released the following statement:

“The University of North Florida strictly prohibits the unlawful purchase, possession, distribution and/or use of illegal drugs. The University is monitoring the nationwide fentanyl situation and all University Police Department (UPD) officers have completed mandatory training in responding to fentanyl and other opioid-related calls. Every UPD officer carries Naloxone and is trained to administer it. UNF Housing and Residence Life staff completed voluntary training on fentanyl and administering Naloxone. The Informed Ospreys Program has an online module related to opioid use that every incoming freshman must complete. The Counseling Center and Student Health Services also offer support, resources, and care provider referrals for students struggling with substance abuse.”

Debbie and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody believe that ending the use of fentanyl is a community effort.

If you would like to help people like Debbie and Florida General Attorney Ashley Moody end drug use and drug overdose with fentanyl, you can.

Debbie says first off, you can stay vigilant because the use of fentanyl and other drugs is a community problem. Adding that we as a community should work to make sure that our youth feel that they can talk to anyone at any time.

If you would like to help with The Derek Hatcher Foundation, you can click this link.

Remember to jot down The Derek Hatcher Foundation on your calendars in November and December. Debbie says gifts are collected during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and given to children who have parents struggling with addiction.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asks that you visit https://doseofrealityfl.com/. Here, Moody says you can get help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.

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