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In Yuba County, more people are dying from fentanyl use than ever before.
Data from the California Department of Public Health show that fentanyl-related deaths in Yuba County are one of the highest per 100,000 population with 12 in 2021. This data comes as the state grapples with a rapid spike in overdoses from the synthetic opioid in the past decade.
“I’ve seen a lot of families that have been impacted by drugs, opioids and fentanyl,” said Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Since the county of 85,000 people has recorded one of the highest death rates in the state, Anderson said law enforcement is trying to get a handle on the drug crisis with a drug task force taking illegal fentanyl off the street daily.
“It’s a drop in the bucket to what’s out there, unfortunately,” he said.
Prosecutors are trying to get users to help who come into the judicial system by offering treatment and the direct phone number of a drug counselor.
“We really encourage them to get yourself into treatment before your parent finds you dead on the floor,” said Yuba County District Attorney Clinton Curry.
Curry said they also give a strict warning to dealers and have them sign a form of acknowledgment of harm.
“If you are giving street drugs to another person, you are taking their life into your hands and if they die we will prosecute you for murder,” Curry said.
As county leaders study the new data, they believe the people dying are a mix of experienced drug users who want that potent high and younger residents who don’t know they’re taking fentanyl.
“You could have one pill that’s fentanyl and get high and the next pill, they’re dead,” Curry said. “There’s no quality control. There’s no consistency.”
The synthetic opioid is similar to morphine but about 100 times more potent, according to the DEA. However, most times illicit fentanyl is also mixed with other illicit drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine to increase its potency. The DEA said two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on how big a person is.
Fentanyl is now the No. 1 killer of adults aged 18 to 45 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Video below: Placer County officials warn about ‘rainbow’ fentanyl going around
Anderson said the drugs are being made in Mexico and he wants them stopped at the border.
“We’ve always been battling drug issues and now that fentanyl is here and it being the drug of choice, it’s a killer, it’s killing people,” he said.
Emergency room nurses and doctors are seeing overdoses and deaths at the only Yuba County hospital, Adventist Health Rideout.
“Have I seen people that have OD’d on fentanyl? Yeah, that’s a given,” said Casey Insixiengmay, emergency department manager.
He said he’s seen it happen to teens, young and older adults.
“It’s not a scary sight of your frantic or going psychotic or losing your mind. It’s the opposite,” he said. “Just sleeping, not waking up and not breathing anymore.”
Healthcare workers are going to events armed with Narcan and giving it away for free. Adventist Health Rideout hospital has handed out 7,200 kits, making it the number two hospital in the state for distributing the life-saving measure.
Insixiengmay said Narcan should be made more accessible for everyone.
Video below: Sacramento City Unified makes Narcan available at schools
| DATA BELOW | Scroll through the interactive map below to see where the most fentanyl-related deaths are happening in California, along with the spike in deaths since 2012.
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