Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Amid the fentanyl crisis, teens in West Virginia gain life skills to stand strong

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In the epicenter of the drug overdose crisis, teenagers in the U.S. are gaining the skills they need to prevent them from falling prey to the cartels that are targeting them viciously with fentanyl-laced pills

Kerri Blankenship, 17 years old, is one of those teenagers. 

She told Fox News that most of her childhood was spent in foster care because her parents were addicted to drugs.

“I just watched them do the drugs,” she said as she sat on her bed in the barracks. 

“It was pretty hard to watch my mom and dad go that way.”

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In about a week, Blankenship will join more than 50 other young adults as she graduates from the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, a 22-week voluntary program for at-risk youth.

Last week, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia announced it found the first batch of rainbow fentanyl in this part of the state. 

Pills that look like candy were made to be sold as oxycodone.

Rainbow fentanyl pills like these — pills that look like candy — were made to be sold as oxycodone.

Rainbow fentanyl pills like these — pills that look like candy — were made to be sold as oxycodone.
(DEA)

The DEA reports the Mexican drug cartels are shifting their focus to American children — and the trend is growing nationwide.

“It makes me mad. It makes me furious,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Va. 

“What makes me furious is we’re not stopping it in the border.”

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Capito blames broken border policies for the pills that have been poisoning her state for years. West Virginia has the worst rate for overdose deaths, according to CDC data. 

“What makes me furious is we’re not stopping it in the border.”

Standing in the once-booming coal town of Montgomery, she said it’s easy to see how drugs took hold and jobs slipped away.

“We have people who can’t find a job, people who want to numb their pain, people who are in pain and try to seek some relief,” said Capito.

These fentanyl pills were intercepted at mailing facilities in Staten Island, N.Y.

These fentanyl pills were intercepted at mailing facilities in Staten Island, N.Y.
(DEA)

But until something changes on the front lines at the U.S. Mexico border, Capito said, she and other state leaders are focused on preventing addiction in the first place.

“We’ve got to stop the desire, the need, the market for these drugs,” she said. 

“They don’t care whose lives they ruin. It’s all about their money.”

Tools to help vulnerable teens

Local businesses like Fruits of Labor are hiring at-risk young adults or those in recovery. 

And programs like the Mountaineer Challenge Academy are giving struggling and vulnerable teens the tools they need to make good choices.

In West Virginia, programs like the Mountaineer Challenge Academy are giving struggling teenagers the tools they need to make good choices.

In West Virginia, programs like the Mountaineer Challenge Academy are giving struggling teenagers the tools they need to make good choices.
(iStock)

It seems to be working. 

When Fox News asked what Blankenship will do once she leaves the safety of the barracks, she said, “The best thing is just keep your head on and focus on your road.”

“I just hope she knows how much I’m trying for her,” said the 17-year-old about her 14-year-old sister.

That road may one day lead to Blankenship adopting her 14-year-old sister. 

It’s the only family she has. 

And one day, she hopes to give her sister the childhood that she herself lost — since it was stolen from her.

“I just hope she knows how much I’m trying for her,” said Blankenship, wiping away tears. 

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“How much I want her to be what she wants to be and who she wants to be,” she added. 



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