Deadly fentanyl overdoses in San Diego County, California, surged by more than triple during the coronavirus lockdowns, sparking concerns among local law enforcement officials.
In 2019, there were 151 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County. According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, there were 461 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in San Diego County in 2020, triple the number from the year before. While still early, the projection for 2021 is 700 such overdose deaths.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is part of the Narcotics Task Force Team 10, which responds to an average of 5 to 6 calls per week; most of them fatal overdoses and most involving a fentanyl-related overdose.
San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan pointed to isolation along with the increased supply of fentanyl as the main drivers of the surge.
“Parents are finding their children dead from fentanyl overdoses, boyfriends finding their girlfriends dead, and children are being put at risk by this alarming spike,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. “We’ve been sounding this alarm for years but the problem is only getting worse.”
Our office continues to focus on awareness campaigns while at the same time stepping up our prosecutions of street dealers who know their product is suspect in an attempt to try and save lives. Fentanyl laced drugs continue to be sold on the streets and we need to get the word out that you never know what you’re taking if it’s not from a pharmacy,” Stephan added.
The country suffered the loss of an active firefighter, who died from fentanyl in January. In February, an eight-month-old boy ingested fentanyl during the care of his mother and her boyfriend. The baby’s life was saved and the mother and her boyfriend were later charged with felony child endangerment.
“As first responders, law enforcement officers see firsthand the destruction of drug overdose and the devastation it causes to families,” said Roxanna Kennedy, who serves as president of the San Diego County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association, said in a statement. “People are dying every day. That’s why San Diego County law enforcement leaders are committed to bringing awareness to this issue. We all need to work together to educate our community including parents and young people.”