As guests maneuvered around tables, chairs and trays of appetizers being showcased during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Health Museum exhibit titled “Drugs: Costs & Consequences," Kim Gillihan stood quietly and gazed off into the distance.

In one section of the exhibit highlighting how illegal drugs are impacting the local community, Gillihan rested along a portion of the exhibit boarded off in the back. The mother from Cypress was alone at the moment, but she stood next to the part of the exhibit that told the story of her son.

Gillihan’s contribution included a photo of her 14-year-old son Joshua and video footage from the day he died from fentanyl poisoning last August. With tears in her eyes, she recalled the day she lost her only son, whom she found in his bed after taking what he thought was Percocet.

Joshua was a freshman at Cypress’s Bridgeland High School.

“It’s just the worst thing that could ever happen,” she previously told Community Impact.

“Drugs: Costs & Consequences” will be on display at The Health Museum, located at 1515 Hermann Drive, Houston, until June 10.

  • Admission is free.

Dig deeper

Fentanyl cases are hitting the suburbs particularly hard, according to data from the analysis firm January Advisors. The majority of addresses filed in Harris County courts for possession are located on the edge of the region. The neighborhoods hit the hardest are around Houston’s ship channel, according to the report.

Why it matters

Former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart spoke to museum guests Sept. 29 about how substance abuse is impacting communities across the country.

“One pill can kill,” Leonhart said. “That’s the current situation with fentanyl, and if your kids are going to be impacted by drugs at all, you’re going to have to worry about that. In fact, they might not know what they’re taking. It could be poison, and it could be deadly.”

The impact

A growing demand for substance use services is taking place in Harris County, according to the August annual report from the Harris County Public Health Department.

The Substance Use Prevention Program screened more than 16,850 patients from October 2021-May 2023. During that same time period, 430 doses of naloxone were distributed to patients. Naloxone, also commonly known as Narcan, is used to reverse the effects of opioids in an emergency situation.

In April, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Narcan will be provided to law enforcement in every county in Texas. At least 20,000 units were distributed to counties, according to a news release.

The takeaway

Leonhart said she is doing more to get the word about the dangers and consequences of drug use. She hopes that families who visit the new exhibit will end up walking away from it discovering a new way to talk about the public health crisis with young people.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Leonhart said.