Sununu kicks off 'No Safe Experience' warning campaign aimed at youth

Jan. 12—CONCORD — Melissa Lebrun of Seabrook told first responders that her son three months ago had a fentanyl overdose after taking from a friend what he thought was a Percocet pill for pain.

American Medical Response (AMR) Regional Director Chris Stawasz shared Lebrun's story Thursday as Gov. Chris Sununu unveiled his plan to use $500,000 in federal grants to warn teens and parents that there's "No Safe Experience" with drugs except those that a health care provider prescribes.

"It is shocking how many times I speak to a parent who says, 'This is not in my house, it's not in our community's problem,'" said Sununu, a father of three children.

"It is very much your problem; it could be happening in your house right now."

A quick trip to the Seabrook Fire Station revived Lebrun's son, but, David Mara, Sununu's addiction policy advisory, said the state has seen a growing number of young people at risk of dying after taking fake pills laced with the deadly opioid.

A "small number" of the 425 opioid overdose deaths last year involved young people ingesting fake pills, Mara said.

"It has been happening across the country and we want to get ahead of this," Mara said.

Col. Nathan Noyes, director of the New Hampshire State Police, said in 2022 that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized the equivalent of 379 million doses of drugs laced with fentanyl.

"That's more than the entire population of this country," Noyes said. "A lethal dose of fentanyl is the same as a few grains of salt."

Campaign aimed at kids

Using federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, the campaign will include advertising on television, radio, social media and billboards to drive home this message.

Noyes said it would also include signs and posters put up in all middle and high schools along with in state liquor stores and state Division of Motor Vehicle substations.

Sununu said the Governor's Youth Advisory Council on Substance Misuse and Prevention is assisting state officials with devising content for this campaign.

"Our objective is not to spread fear, but to use facts and education as our greatest tool in preventing substance misuse, and premature loss of life," said Lyla Buxton, vice chair of the youth council.

Carolyn Royer, director of the State Police Forensic Lab, said 50% of all drug samples her office examined last year contained fentanyl, up from 30% in 2019 and only 3% a decade ago.

The DEA reported in 2022 that six of 10 drugs they tested laced with fentanyl had potentially lethal amounts, up from four of 10 tested in 2021, she said.

Often law enforcement officers are unaware how much fentanyl is packed into a sample they have tested, she said.

"If they cannot tell just by looking at them" that the pill contains fentanyl, "neither can you," Royer said.

Sununu and Stawasz said state, federal and local law enforcement partners have reported examples of fentanyl being found in marijuana, Adderall, methamphetamine and Xanax.

The campaign will begin in about three weeks and continue through the school year into the summer months, Mara added.