SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Mothers Against Drug Deaths hosted a rally Sunday on the first National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day at San Francisco City Hall where they were joined by community leaders and other advocates calling for tougher policies to reduce overdose deaths.
"Trevor was a wonderful human being with a beautiful heart," said Michelle Leopold. She lost her son in 2019 to a fentanyl overdose. He was 18 at the time.
"I know that there's a lot of stigma around addiction that needs to be changed," she added.
Leopold was one of the speakers at Sunday's rally. She said that her business has suffered from increased shoplifting from drug users trying to sell those stolen items to buy narcotics. Her son tried to get oxycodone the day he died but a toxicology report showed only fentanyl in his system.
"It's not a parenting problem. Just like when you get cancer it's not a parenting problem, it's a disease and addiction is a disease," she explained.
Speakers included the new district attorney for San Francisco Brooke Jenkins who said that they are at war with fentanyl and her department will now work with the police department to prosecute cases. She said her new policies target fentanyl dealers and she emphasized these are not victimless crimes.
"We are going to make sure that, for those who are struggling with substance abuse, that we get them help," Jenkins said. "This is not a war on addicts. This is not a war on some of our most vulnerable San Franciscans who need our help."
Several city supervisors expressed their support for policies that include ending homeless encampments and an open-air drug market. They acknowledged not everyone on the board of supervisors agrees on this issue.
"This is an important rally. This is led by people that are feeling pain on a daily basis," said Supervisor Ahsha Safai of District 11. "I'm here to listen, I'm here to do better and we're going to try and turn this crisis around in this city."
While the members of MADD wanted to see a tougher response by city and state leaders, they also want to encourage their community to learn more about how to save lives.
Leopold will be giving out free supplies of Narcan, the medication that, when used correctly, can reverse the effects of an overdose. She owns multiple stores and will distribute the product at different locations and will train people on how to use it over the next 10 days.
"I thought I'd be teaching my son about the world but I'm teaching the world about my son," Leopold said.
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