Health & Medicine

Sacramento County fentanyl-related fatalities at 12, could grow

The number of fentanyl-related fatalities reported in Sacramento and Yolo counties rose to 12 on Monday after county officials said a previously undetermined death was reclassified as caused by the painkiller.

That brings the total number of fentanyl-linked overdoses to 52, attributed to street sales of counterfeit prescription pills, often masquerading as Norco tablets. Of the dozen deaths, 11 were in Sacramento County and one in Yolo County.

“The latest case was not one that we suspected would be related to fentanyl,” said Sacramento County Coroner Kimberly Gin in an email. “The cause after exam was undetermined and is now confirmed as related to fentanyl once the toxicology report was received.”

Gin said there is “the potential that other (fentanyl) deaths can result,” as more toxicology reports are completed. Her office is not releasing names of victims, pending further investigation into the deaths.

Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller typically used in hospitals for surgery patients, began showing up in the Sacramento region on March 23. Those stricken by overdoses have ranged in age from 16 to 67, according to county officials, and appear to cut across economic backgrounds.

Federal law enforcement officials continue their investigation into the source of the painkillers, which are sold illegally by drug dealers.

“It’s still a priority for us,” said Casey Rettig, special agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in San Francisco. “We want to find the source, where this is coming from, where it’s being manufactured and what drug-trafficking organization is responsible.”

Rettig said dozens of DEA investigators are tracking leads and doing interviews. She encouraged the public to call the DEA’s tipline – 530-722-7577 – if they have information about Sacramento’s fentanyl cases.

Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye announced the latest fentanyl overdose and death numbers Monday after reviewing reports from the coroner and weekend reports from the region’s hospitals.

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck