AUSTIN (KXAN) — With National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day on the horizon, an Austin mom is joining families around the country in asking federal lawmakers to do more.

Carilu Bell lost her son, Casey Copeland, to fentanyl poisoning less than a year ago. Bell has used her story to connect with other victims’ families and to advocate for more education locally.

Casey Copeland
Casey Copeland died after taking a pill that was laced with fentanyl in 2021 (courtesy Carilu Bell)

“He took what he thought was a Valium and it was fentanyl,” Bell said. “I found him in his condo the following day. It’s been very devastating as you can imagine, and even more devastating that people are continuing to die every day.”

Around the country, people will be hosting awareness events on Sunday, Aug. 21 to honor National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day. In Austin, a walk hosted by Bell is happening at 10 a.m. starting at 1900 Barton Springs Road. Bell is encouraging people to come out and get connected.

“I meet people every day that have heard of fentanyl but they still don’t know to what extreme it’s having on our country and that it’s killing every day. So I have taken every opportunity to explain it to them,” Bell said.

She won’t be alone, she’s connected with family members of victims of fentanyl poisoning around the country — including Andrea Thomas, the co-founder of Facing Fentanyl, who lives in Colorado. Thomas lost her daughter to fentanyl four years ago.

“Many more people have died, will continue to die today. You can see the urgency that we have in getting our message out and asking for our federal government to address it,” Thomas said.

You can find a list of Facing Fentanyl events on its website.

Taking the effort national

Not only will groups around the country be hosting awareness walks, but they are also taking the message right to President Biden. The families will be meeting in Washington D.C. next month for the second annual Lost Voices of Fentanyl rally.

They are also sending a letter to President Biden asking him to do the following:

  • Acknowledge illicit fentanyl is a national security issue
  • Acknowledge that “transnational cartel criminals are initiating these wrongful fentanyl poisonings”
  • And declare a national emergency

“We want to know why this national security crisis and health crisis, humanitarian crisis at this point, is not being addressed,” said Thomas.

During a Senate committee meeting on drugs earlier this year, Dr. Rahul Gupta talked about the President’s drug control plan.

The remarks pointed to executive orders Biden signed that aim to stop the flow of illicit drugs from transnational criminal organizations and give the executive branch the ability to punish global illicit drug dealers financially.

“As families, as parents, we’re not able to work at that level,” Thomas said. “So we are spreading the prevention and awareness. We need the federal government to step up to the plate for the safety of Americans.”


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