Hamilton High somber after student's death – NBC Montana

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Hamilton High somber after student’s…

HAMILTON, Mont. – It’s been a somber couple days in Hamilton. 

Hamilton Chief of Police Ryan Oster said on Sunday a 16-year-old boy died of a suspected prescription overdose, while a 15-year-old boy was hospitalized after a suspected overdose.

The Hamilton High School student’s death, as well as his friend being hospitalized, has cast a great sadness over the community and once again focused more attention on prescription drug abuse.

“The families are most impacted,” said Hamilton High Principal Dan Kimzey, “and we have lots of students who are friends with these boys.”

Oster said, “Our hearts go out to the parents.”

Oster said officers responded to a Hamilton house early Sunday morning for a report of one teen who was breathing and another who was not.

He said a parent had called 911. 

Oster said investigators suspect prescription drug abuse, but his office is waiting on lab results.

He said the 15-year-old who was taken to a Missoula hospital is “making progress.”

At the high school extra counselors have been brought in to help students.

Counselor Ellen Ryter said the tragedy has hit kids hard.

She said it shows “the value of life and how important friendships are and being there for each other.”

“The counselors are available,” said Ryter, if students need “extra support during the school day. It’s a heavy thing for students to deal with. They are in shock right now, and emotions are running high.”

“Many students wanted to be together,” she said, “and some of the students went home because it was just too much.”

Both Ryter and Kimzey said the immediacy of social media also left its impact on kids and challenged the school district involving the tragedy.”

“To try to dispel rumors,” he said, “and to provide accurate information that we get through law enforcement. Kids had inaccurate information, and a rumor can bloom at the flick of a switch.”

“We want to look at some kind of a training for parents and students regarding the proper use of social media,” he said, “and establishing boundaries of decency and dignity and respect for families who are having the worst moment of their lives.”

The principal said the suspected overdoses spotlight an opioid crisis on a local, state and national level.

“Prescription drug abuse is a nationwide problem,” he said. “It’s a problem that weasels its way into our high schools, and we fight against it all the time.”

He said the district wants to develop a community-wide training program on prescription drug abuse.

“The discussion has to be a statewide effort that involves everybody,” he said, “not just schools but law enforcement and judges. This is a big issue in our community that we need to confront from every angle.”

The suspected overdoses have hit people all over the Bitterroot

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