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Marin mother channels grief over son's fentanyl death into preventing other fatal overdoses

Family members of opioid victims share their knowledge at Marin awareness event
Family members of opioid victims share their knowledge at Marin awareness event 03:17

A grieving Marin County mother who lost her son to a deadly fentanyl overdose is turning her pain into action that will save other people's lives.

Just outside of her Marin Ace Hardware store in San Rafael Thursday, Michelle Leopold talked with dozens of people; many were parents. She spent time teaching them about the signs of an overdose and how to use reversing agent naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

"It's really great to know that hopefully today's event is going to give one or two or maybe even more people a chance of surviving an opioid overdose," Leopold said.

In Marin County, overdose is the leading cause of death among residents ages 55 and younger, OD Free Marin told KPIX 5. Leopold, in partnership with OD Free Marin, passed out flyers and Narcan to people who wanted it.

This is the second year Leopold does this on International Overdose Awareness Day. She wore purple with a pin that said, "I wear purple in honor of Trevor."

Trevor is Leopold's son. He died from fentanyl poisoning in 2019. He was a freshman at Sonoma State University.

"My kids were in Boy Scouts, they were in Little League. They did all the same things, checked off the list. It can happen to everyone," Leopold said.

The number of fatal overdoses in Marin County has risen in the last few years. In 2018, there were 30. In 2022, there were 61. OD Free Marin provided the data and cited the California Department of Public Health Center for Health Statistics. San Quentin State Prison inmates are included and represent approximately 4% of fatal overdoses from 2018 to 2022.

Leopold pointed out that her son isn't included in those numbers because he was at Sonoma State when he passed.

When Leopold is asked about Trevor, she says he loved nature.

"Trevor absolutely thought that being outside was the best place to be," she said. "One of the things that brought him and me very close was he always seemed to find heart-shaped rocks when he went on hikes and he would always give them to me."

Now, when she sees heart-shaped rocks, she thinks of him. She said she wakes up every morning missing him. But helping others for her is part of healing.

Outside of Marin Ace Hardware, people who have also lost loved ones to a fatal overdose were there too, supporting each other.

Anita Renzetti is the Senior Program Coordinator for OD Free Marin, a group that aims to educate and prevent fatal overdoses. Renzetti lost her brother in 2018 to an overdose.

On Thursday, Renzetti showed Marin County parent Ellen Finestone how to use Narcan.

"I think that sometimes we all want to believe that nothing like that could happen to our loved ones," Finestone said. "I've been reading a lot more about what's been happening, and I just want to be prepared."

That's part of Leopold's mission. She's helping others heal and educating parents in the county.

"I also feel that [Trevor] maybe is helping me. I'd like to think that. That he's part of what I'm doing and guiding me," she said.

Marin County has a few places to pick up Narcan for free from vending machines. That list can be found at

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