CARROLLTON, Texas — Ryan Vaughn’s daughter, Sienna, was just 16 years old when she died of an overdose after unknowingly ingesting fentanyl.

The cheerleader and high school student had just finished enjoying a home cookout with her family on Feb. 19, when she and a friend headed upstairs to hang out.

“We discovered them an hour or two after taking these pills. My daughter was already dead,» Vaughn said Monday. His friend could be revived. The girls had taken what they believed to be Percocet, but it actually contained fentanyl, the highly potent and addictive synthetic opioid that can be deadly with as little as a dose. tip of a pencil.

Ryan Vaughn’s daughter, Sienna, died of fentanyl poisoning on February 19.Daniella Silva/NBC News

«She made a mistake,» Vaughn said. «But because fentanyl is so deadly, that mistake cost him his life.»

Vaughn believes that more data collection on drugs circulating in the community and better communication with parents about those dangers could have saved her daughter’s life.

“If we had known that Percocet was out there at Plano High School, we would have sat down with Sienna and talked to her about it,” he said. “We need a big awareness campaign that gets out there for parents and children because the message is not getting through.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Monday that he will soon introduce legislation aimed at combating the nation’s worsening fentanyl crisis, including providing additional support for programs that raise awareness about the dangers of the drug.

The Substance Use Disorder Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act of 2023, which Cornyn said he would introduce in a few weeks, would reauthorize programs aimed at reducing drug demand, provide assistance to law enforcement agencies and service providers, and direct funding to award programs that support people recovering from substance use disorders.

The legislation «would help improve the prevention program of Drug Free Communities,» Cornyn said. «It would help law enforcement take down the trafficking organizations that sell these drugs and provide more support for those fighting substance use disorders.»

He also called on President Joe Biden and the federal government to do more to combat drug trafficking across the southern border into the US.

“We know that this crisis is hitting very closely here in North Texas,” where several children have died and others have “escaped fatal consequences,” he said.

Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, at the Capitol on April 19, 2023.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill on April 19.Alex Brandon/AP

Cornyn spoke about the move at a panel discussion at a high school in Carrollton, where nearly a dozen teens in one school district overdosed on fentanyl this school year. The fallout has devastated and angered the community, including parents who have criticized the school district for not intervening sooner to stop drug use on school grounds.

He was joined by students, representatives from local police and two local school districts, and parents, like Lilia Astudillo, who have lost children to the fentanyl crisis.

«I never imagined that something like this could happen to my family,» said Astudillo, whose 14-year-old son, José Alberto Pérez, died of a fentanyl overdose. “My son was more than a statistic, he was not just a number among the thousands who have died from this drug. He was a precious soul, he was a human being full of life and dreams.

Lilia Astudillo's son, José Alberto Pérez, died of a fentanyl overdose at the age of 14.
Lilia Astudillo’s son, José Alberto Pérez, died of a fentanyl overdose at the age of 14.Daniella Silva/NBC News

More than 1,600 Texans died from a fentanyl-related overdose in 2021, an 89% increase from 2020, Cornyn’s office said.

The number of fentanyl-related deaths among young people has also increased. The monthly median fentanyl overdose deaths in people ages 10 to 19 increased 182% from July to December 2019 compared to the same period in 2021, according to a December report report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 2,200 teens suffered a fatal overdose in the two-and-a-half-year period from July 2019 to December 2021, with fentanyl involved in 84% of the deaths, the report found.

At RL Turner High School in Carrollton, where several students experienced fentanyl poisoning, they were taught to recognize the signs of an overdose.

Saniyah Rodriguez, a sophomore, said she had to put those lessons into practice five weeks ago when she learned the «gurgling» sound she heard coming from the school bathroom was a student overdose.

“It was scary, but I knew I needed help,” Rodriguez said. Her experience, however, has left her shaken.

“What I experienced traumatized me,” he said.