Cowtown Community To Come Together Against Fentanyl

Counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl
Counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl | Image by DEA

Community members will soon gather in Cowtown to raise awareness of the fentanyl crisis spreading across the nation and advocate for change.

The Association of People Against Lethal Drugs (APALD) is hosting its fourth annual nationwide community outreach across 35 cities, with the first DFW-area outreach taking place at the Tarrant County Courthouse on May 3. The event will be held from 2-4 p.m. on the east side of the courthouse.

The community outreach event was started by a Fort Worth resident who has a personal tie to the fentanyl crisis. Stephanie Hellstern lost her 16-year-old son to fentanyl poisoning in 2020.

Kyle Shane Sexton experimented with what he believed to be Percocet, but the pill he took turned out instead to be pure fentanyl.

Following the loss of her son, Hellstern connected with APALD and eventually became its marketing director. She also started the North Texas Coalition Against Fentanyl nonprofit in 2021. The nonprofit aims to support grieving families who have suffered a loss from fentanyl.

“I started the coalition because I needed [support] at the time,” Hellestern noted.

“Four years now after Kyle’s passing, I am seeing finally why God put me on this journey,” Hellestern shared with The Dallas Express.

The Fort Worth event will feature several speakers and tables with resources for those who have been struggling, whether with the loss of a loved one or those who are overcoming addiction. There will also be free Narcan Nasal Spray available to take home.

“There is a lot of stigma around addiction, and there shouldn’t be. One of the things I realized as each parent and family comes to us is so many people have shame and guilt around it,” Hellestern told DX.

“I really want to give people a voice. It took me a while to start speaking and advocating, and that the biggest message is that every life matters. We’re trying to save lives by sharing what we’ve gone through to help not have any more people that we lose.”

In recent years, there has been a striking increase in the amount of fentanyl finding its way into the DFW metroplex, as previously covered by The Dallas Express.

Both the City of Dallas and Fort Worth have taken action to combat the fight against the deadly opioid.

In 2021, the Dallas Police Department created a specialized unit to investigate all overdoses. There also is a narcotics unit that works with the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate how fentanyl is getting into Dallas.

In 2023, a total of 8,884 drug/narcotic violations were reported, according to the City of Dallas crime analytics dashboard. This year there have been 3,024 reported, as of April 24.

Looking at the city of Fort Worth, there have been 1,593 fentanyl cases between January 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024, according to a public information request obtained on April 17 by The Dallas Express.

The Fort Worth Police Department created a fentanyl response team in 2023 to locate and shut down drug dealers around the city.

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