Fentanyl overdose deaths on the rise in Sonoma County

No arrests, other than the minor who was driving the car Carrillo Mendoza was in, and whom officers suspect to be intoxicated at the time of the crash, have been made, Santa police said. Rosa.

In December 2019, federal prosecutors filed charges against three residents of Santa Rosa whom they suspect of providing Patrick O’Neill, also of Santa Rosa, with a dose of fentanyl which killed him and his son of 13 months, Liam Richard Savoy-O’Neill. , three months earlier.

The defendants, Leanna Zamora, Shane Cratty and Lindsay Williams, have each pleaded guilty and are expected to appear for sentencing in August and late September, according to court records.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office made the largest federal seizure of fentanyl in northern California last month when it raided several East Bay hideouts and found more than 40 pounds of drugs, resulting in the arrest of seven people , the agency announced on Tuesday.

Investigators allege that the suspects behind the drug trafficking organization filled more than 100 orders for suspected fentanyl in just over a month earlier this year and are responsible for distributing fentanyl in northern California and beyond.

The surge in deaths comes as local law enforcement officials say fentanyl dominates the local illicit drug market and workers at a methadone clinic in Santa Rosa say most of their clients are trying to get rid of drugs.

When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as an injection, a skin patch, or an oral soluble tablet to treat patients with severe pain. Illegally manufactured fentanyl can come as a white powder, compressed into tablets, or mixed with heroin, among other forms.

Both the legal and illegal versions of the drug are extremely potent, making them an attractive option for people with opioid use disorders. It also delivers a better high for less money when bought on the street, experts say.

“When I started working here it was all heroin,” said Jesse Collins, a counseling supervisor who started working for the Santa Rosa Treatment Program, which treats people with opioid use disorder more than five years ago.

“Then it was red rock… which is heroin mixed with fentanyl. Now it’s just fentanyl.

The combination of fentanyl and other substances resulted in 80 deaths in Sonoma County last year, a 116% increase from 2019, when 37 of those deaths were reported.

The difference is even larger compared to 2018 and 2017, where 29 and 12 people, respectively, died from overdoses involving a mixture of fentanyl and another drug.

Fatal overdoses in which fentanyl was the only drug detected were less common in Sonoma County, although those numbers also increased in 2020.

Under these circumstances, 29 people lost their lives last year compared to six in 2019. There were two such deaths in 2018 and again in 2017 across the county, according to data from the coroner’s office.

The proliferation of fentanyl has had a deadly effect elsewhere in the state, ranging from San Francisco to Kern County in the Central Valley, areas with some of the state’s highest rates of fentanyl-related overdose deaths per capita. in 2019, the most recent data from the California Opioid Overdose Monitoring Dashboard shows.

Sonoma County ranked third on this list.

The number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths in California has increased by 541% over the past three years, according to a report from California Health Policy Strategies, a Sacramento-based consulting firm.

Looking at all fatal overdoses of any type of drug, the substance was involved in more than a third of all overdose deaths in the Golden State, according to the report.

In Sonoma County, he was involved in half of all drug overdoses from 2018 to July 1, 2020, according to county data.

“It’s a concern,” Melissa Struzzo, program director for Sonoma County Addiction Services, said of fentanyl. “As a counselor, I’ve seen people start using again. “

Focal point for drug teams

Two local narcotics sergeants say the rise in fentanyl overdose deaths coincides with the steadily increasing amount and frequency in which their officers and deputies encounter the drug, which filters from the US-Mexico border to San Francisco and Oakland before landing in the hands of Sonoma County. drug traffickers.

Sgt. Dan Ager, who oversees the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Hybrid Narcotics and Property Crimes Unit, said his investigators expected fentanyl “almost everywhere we go.”

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