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Colorado woman shares heartbreaking loss of mother to fentanyl

bernadette atencio mother fentanyl death.jpg
Posted at 11:27 AM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 13:27:00-05

DENVER — Fentanyl deaths have quickly become a public health crisis as they continue to skyrocket across Colorado.

The stories of heartbreaking loss are scattered across the Colorado. One local woman is now begging for more attention to the epidemic after losing her own mother to the drug.

Bernadette Atencio shared a special bond with her mother, even sharing the same name.

But Atencio's mom was never able to shake addiction. It was a curse she lived with and shared with Atencio. It didn't take long for daughter to follow mother down the same dark path.

"I overdosed myself, and my 12-year-old son actually had to give me CPR. That was four years ago. Ever since then, you know, I changed my life around and trying to use that for the better," Atencio said.

For her mother, rehab was a temporary fix. She died six months ago after a fentanyl overdose.

"It triggered a multiple-organ system failure in her, and she died two weeks after being hospitalized," Atencio said.

The deadly fentanyl poisioning that left five people dead in Commerce City on Feb. 20 hit close to home for her. Some of the victims were distant family relatives.

"It made me feel very sad for the family, mostly for their children. There needs to be more education and awareness out there," Atencio said.

Now, she's committed to breaking the family cycle. Atencio said she frequently has open and honest conversations with her three children and encourages others to do the same.

"The scariest thing would be the peer pressure, you know, just try this one time. And that's all it takes is just one time," Atencio said. "Before you know it, years are gone."

Programs that used to be a part of every child's education have relapsed themselves.

"I did ask all three of my children and they all said that there has been no drug awareness at all. And it's really scary, you know, because I talk to my children, but what about all the other children who, you know, they don't get that education?" she said.

According to Denver Public Health, in 2021, there were at least 215 fentanyl-related deaths, a 36% increase compared to 2020.