Velci’s son, Emilio, passed away from Fentanyl poisoning in 2020
ATASCADERO — Though the Emilio Velci Aloha Project’s founder Cammie Velci tends to stay local with her fentanyl awareness and education, she’s been attending fentanyl events all over the country over the last couple of months. Velci, who lost her son Emilio to fentanyl poisoning in 2020, has been championing education about the drug ever since.
“What I’m doing is, my main focus is here in this county because when I started my foundation, I looked at what Emilio would do and how his heart was, and what he loved in his life. And he loved this area,” stated Velci.
Velci went on to say that on her travels — which included a summit through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Washington, D.C., and the Ride for John Fentanyl and Opiod Awareness Day in Carol Stream, Illinois — she’s met many people across the nation who are doing similar things as the Emilio Velci Aloha Project and that she’s been learning and supporting those people on their shared journey.
“Going to these events, I learn a lot,” Velci said. “I see the tears; I see the horror in these parents’ faces as they’re trying to navigate their journey. This new journey that no one wanted to be a part of, and yet [they] are spreading the information on fentanyl awareness.”
Velci said that one of the main things she’s learned is the importance of using the right language while speaking about the fentanyl epidemic. And that it’s important to know the difference between an overdose and poisoning.
“Using the correct language breaks the stigma,” said Velci about how people talk about fentanyl. “My son was a first-time self-medicater. It didn’t make sense to me when I got the information that he died. He overdosed on a pill. I looked at that info, and I said, ‘that’s impossible for someone to overdose on one pill.’ It is impossible, I mean unless it’s fentanyl. So, it’s not an overdose. My son didn’t take a bunch of real pharmaceutical Percocet; he took what he thought was pharmaceutical Percocet. One, which nobody is going to overdose on one real Percocet, and he died. So that is a poisoning.”
Emilio Velci passed away in his home on the evening of March 8, 2020, when he ingested a pill allegedly sold to him by Timothy Wolfe (24) of Paso Robles. Emilio thought the pill was pharmaceutical-grade Percocet, but the three pills he bought contained fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has been taking the lives of people all over the U.S. The opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Emilio was found the next day; the cause of his death was determined to be fentanyl poisoning.
It was announced on July 28 that Emilio’s case is being taken over by federal court, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles has indicted Wolfe on the charge of selling fentanyl causing death. Since this is now a federal criminal case, it will supersede Wolfe’s local prosecution for the second-degree murder of Emilio.
Wolfe faces a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison due to his federal charge if found guilty in court for distributing fentanyl causing death.
“Of course it opens up emotions and sometimes it takes me back to day one,” Velci said. “We want justice that’s very important and I think people need to be held accountable.”
Velci also added that it’s difficult for her to know that the trial is going to take place, even now, 29 months after her son’s death, but she’s looking forward and will continue to use her voice to spread her fentanyl knowledge.
She stated that there has been a serious escalation of fentanyl coming into the country since the start of 2022. She went on to add that fentanyl poisoning is reaching youth as young as 13, and that the growing age-range in death numbers is 15 to 18.
“And we’re not even looking at the number of people that get saved,” added Velci. “It [fentanyl poisoning] is the No. 1 cause of death from 18- to 40-year-olds.”
Velci added that she would love to see more events promoting fentanyl awareness and education happen in the county, and that she comes across people from locally who often have no idea about fentanyl or that it’s an issue in the area.
“I want to do more education and awareness and spreading this information,” she added. “Because I didn’t have this information, and yet fentanyl, from what I have gathered has been around in this area for awhile.”
On Sunday, Aug. 21, the first Fentanyl Awareness Day will take place, and Velci hopes it brings even more awareness to everything surrounding fentanyl in this country.
“We finally got that on the calendar and got it recognized. That’s important,” Velci stated.
To learn more, go to the Emilio Velci Aloha Project visit emiliovelcialohaproject.com