“We're finding people dead as a result of opioid use,” said acting Police Chief Tim Stump to students in Dover.

Students from Early College High School presented the Dover Police Department with more than a drumroll the morning of Monday, Oct. 7.

After the high school’s drumline performed outside the department’s front steps, students and the Vines Community Project, a coalition that raises substance abuse awareness, presented the Dover officers and acting Police Chief Tim Stump with purple ribbons.

By pinning officers with the ribbons, the students recognized the department for their continued efforts in fighting opioid abuse in the city.

One example of these efforts is the ANGEL program, which started three years ago to encourage people who are addicted to opioids to come into the police station and ask for help. Anyone who participates in this program does not face criminal charges or penalties, according to the police department’s website.

After the pinning ceremony, the police chief met with the students, including members of the drumline and others who volunteered to be a part of a new ambassador program that aims to raise awareness about substance abuse at their school.

Stump said he was encouraged to see the young students at the department Monday morning.

“The fact that so many young adults are taking a part in this is very promising,” he said.

Stump said he did not intend to scare the students, but he warned them of the realities of opioid abuse and the dangers of using these drugs young.

“The decision to use this cannot only be life-altering; it can be life-ending,” he said. “We’re finding people dead in bathrooms, restaurants and parks, as a result of opioid use.”

More than 400 people died in Delaware last year, according to Delaware Goes Purple, an initiative that partners with Sussex County Health Coalition.

One in three of those deaths were a result of using marijuana laced with an opioid like fentanyl, Stump said. While perceptions of marijuana have changed over the years and it has been proven to be helpful medically, the police chief said the students must be careful because they don’t know where their marijuana is coming from.

The Rev. Carol Harris, a leader of the Vines Community Project, emphasized that kids in middle schools are using opioids. Students in eighth to 10th grade are the largest demographic of opioid usage, she said.

Dr. Evelyn Edney, director at Early College High School, said last week was the first time she ever had to pick up Narcan from the pharmacy just in case there is an overdose at school.

Stump agreed opioid usage is more prevalent than it has ever been since he started in law enforcement 30 years ago.

He encouraged the students to make decisions away from opioid use, advising them to be wary of street names that they might not immediately identify as opioids.

“You need to understand that the decisions you guys make...they have consequences,” he said.

Monday’s ceremony and talk with the chief are part of statewide efforts to raise awareness about substance abuse and addiction throughout October.