By ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ | Marin Independent Journal | link to full article

Greenbrae resident Trevor Leopold died of an overdose in 2019 in his dorm room during his freshman year at Sonoma State University. He was 18.

Leopold, who had been struggling with drug addiction, took what he thought was oxycodone, a prescription pain medication. Instead it was a counterfeit pill laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more potent than morphine.

After Michelle and Jeff Leopold lost their son, the Marin couple turned their grief into activism. The owners of Marin Ace Hardware in San Rafael have been hosting classes at their hardware stores across the Bay Area on how to administer Narcan, or naloxone, a substance that can keep an overdose victim alive.

In partnership with the Spahr Center, a Corte Madera nonprofit, customers of the San Rafael store were invited to participate in a session Wednesday. The event coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day, which is recognized annually on Aug. 31. This is the third year they’ve hosted overdose awareness events.

“What we want to do is educate the community, and remove the stigma,” Michelle Leopold said. “Having Narcan can save a life.”

In a statement, Jeff Leopold said, “we hope that during this 2022 Fentanyl and Overdose Awareness period, we might help other mothers and fathers avoid the loss and pain that Michelle and I now know, around the accidental death by fentanyl poisoning, of our beloved first-born.”

Michelle Leopold said her son started using drugs when he was 14 and became addicted. As parents, they tried everything, she said, including sending him to a residential rehabilitation program in Utah during his junior and senior years of high school.

According to the California Overdose Surveillance Database, Marin had 62 overdose deaths in 2021, up from 30 deaths in 2018. At least half involved fentanyl, officials said.

“That’s more than one death per week through 2021,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the Marin County public health officer. “So, it’s clearly a crisis and it has really been driven by one thing, and that’s fentanyl.”

He said the county’s goal is to make Narcan is close at hand. Working with RxSafe Marin, founded in 2014, the county has installed Narcan dispensing machines at the Marin County Jail and the county social services campus at 120 N. Redwood Drive in San Rafael.

Additionally, the county has partnered with the group to host training days like the one hosted by the Leopolds, and distributed Narcan to participants.

Leopold compared the life-saving drug to a fire extinguisher. She said people who buy extinguishers are not judged, just as people who have Narcan should not be.

“It’s a life-saving device,” she said. “There should be no stigma.”

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