Health & Medicine

Yolo County reports second death from illicit fentanyl painkillers

Death is 'collateral damage' for fentanyl dealers

The state Assembly Appropriation Committee on Aug. 11, 2016 killed SB 1323 to increase penalties for drug traffickers of fentanyl. Orange Co. Sheriff's Captain Stu Greenberg says drug dealers consider fentanyl deaths "collateral damage."
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The state Assembly Appropriation Committee on Aug. 11, 2016 killed SB 1323 to increase penalties for drug traffickers of fentanyl. Orange Co. Sheriff's Captain Stu Greenberg says drug dealers consider fentanyl deaths "collateral damage."

A second Yolo County death related to illicit fentanyl painkillers was announced Wednesday, bringing the region’s total number of fentanyl cases to 13 deaths among 54 overdoses.

Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor said the deaths were among three overdoses that occurred in Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland in recent weeks. “This is concerning that it’s so widespread in Yolo and in Sacramento,” said Gabor. “It’s not just in one community.”

Both of the Yolo deaths occurred in March, but it took until now for toxicology results to confirm that fentanyl was involved, said Yolo County Chief Deputy Coroner Gina Moya.

An exact cause of death will not be released until autopsy reports are concluded, which could take up to several months, she said.

“The case is still open, so we can’t release any more information,” said Moya, who declined to state any details on the age, gender or city of those who died.

Since March 23, when area hospitals began reporting opiate overdoses linked to fentanyl, the region has seen an alarming spike in the number of deaths tied to street sales of counterfeit prescription pills. Those pills, many of which are manufactured to look like Norco tablets, are believed to be contaminated with fentanyl, a prescription painkiller that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. Dozens of law enforcement investigators, primarily with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, are trying to track the source of the pills.

Previously, Yolo County’s overdoses and deaths were included in the fentanyl-related statistics reported by Sacramento County public health officials. With Yolo now tallying its own numbers, Sacramento County revised its overall count to 11 deaths, which were among 51 overdoses. As in Yolo, Sacramento County’s coroner is not releasing any details or exact causes of death until autopsy reports are completed.

“It’s important that we still keep vigilant,” said Laura McCasland, Sacramento County public health department spokeswoman. “We need to continue getting the word out there that (people) should not take any pills that were not prescribed by a doctor or received from a pharmacy.”

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck

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