We can all agree about the importance of keeping kids away from illegal drugs. Red Ribbon Week, which is held each year from October 23rd through the 31st, is the oldest and largest drug prevention awareness program in the United States.
Red Ribbon Week began as a tribute to Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a DEA agent who was kidnapped and tortured to death by drug cartels in 1985 during his investigation of a marijuana operation in Chihuahua, Mexico. After the murder, citizen’s of Camarena’s hometown, Calexico, California, began wearing red ribbons in his honor. Congressman Duncan Hunter Sr. and teacher David Dhilon launched “Camarena Clubs” in many California high schools, and in 1988 the first national Red Ribbon Week was organized by the National Family Partnership, with First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as chair.
Data recently released by the CDC shows that 93,331 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, setting a new record, more than 20,000 deaths above the previous record set in 2019. There’s no doubt the nation faces a flood of potent new drugs, including fentanyl. In California alone, there were 6,592 drug-related deaths last year, an increase of over 20%, and 36% of those deaths were fentanyl-related.
Since joining the Legislature in 2012, I have been a strong supporter of Red Ribbon Week, and have provided hundreds of thousands of certificates to students throughout the 75th Assembly District to recognize them for pledging to live drug-free lives. While the legislative certificate program has been impacted by the pandemic, Red Ribbon Week remains a major drug abuse prevention effort in our local schools, an effort I will continue to support.
The struggle to reduce drug abuse and addiction must continue. Helping to save just one person from addiction will make the effort worthwhile. Programs like Red Ribbon Week may help save thousands.