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October 15, 2021

County reports ‘surge’ in fentanyl overdoses

Seven homeless deaths attributed to methamphetamine laced with opioid

Law enforcement authorities are warning the public about the dangers of fentanyl after a surge of overdoses on the powerful opioid drug in recent weeks.

That surge includes seven deaths among homeless residents in San Jose in the last three weeks, and a fatal Aug. 3 overdose on fentanyl by a Morgan Hill juvenile, according to a press release from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. In many of the incidents, the victim did not know they were consuming fentanyl.

“The District Attorney’s Office is deeply concerned that there is an extremely toxic batch of the already potent drug circulating within the county,” says the press release.

The seven homeless residents who died in San Jose had reportedly consumed methamphetamine that contained fentanyl, according to authorities. Driven by these and other drug overdoses, overall homeless deaths in Santa Clara County from July 9 to Aug. 9 (36 deaths) are already more than double than they were during the same period last year (16 deaths), according to the DA’s office.

“Covid is not the only health crisis we are facing in Santa Clara County, and Delta is not the only deadly variant,” DA Jeff Rosen said. “We are committed to work alongside advocates and addicts, police and parents, to stop these overdoses and save lives.”

Authorities listed a number of other recent local deaths resulting in fatal overdoses. On Aug. 3, a juvenile from Morgan Hill suffered a suspected fentanyl overdose after consuming the drug in an unknown form. Morgan Hill Police said investigators have not yet confirmed the Aug. 3 death was a fentanyl overdose.

Powdered fentanyl is the suspected cause of death of an inmate at the Elmwood Correctional Facility July 22, according to the DA. Cocaine containing fentanyl is the suspected cause of death in a July 18 incident in which two people died in a Sunnyvale hotel, authorities said. And a fatal overdose on May 21 in Mountain View is attributed to a white powder that contained fentanyl.

“There were many other fatal fentanyl overdoses during this period attributable to fake pills,” says the DA’s press release.

Last week, the San Jose Police Department seized more than four ounces of fentanyl powder from a subject. If pure, that amount of fentanyl could be turned into thousands of fatal doses.

The county has been monitoring the number of recorded fentanyl deaths in recent years. In 2019, there were 27 recorded deaths by fentanyl overdose in Santa Clara County. In 2020, that number rose to 88 deaths; and in 2021 so far, there have been 44 confirmed deaths by fentanyl overdose.

Anyone in need of drug or alcohol treatment can call Gateway at 1.800.488.9919.

The Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services office distributes free Narcan, which can be administered to an overdosing patient to reverse the effects of fentanyl or other opioids.  

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