Fentanyl crisis plagues L.A. schools; major busts reported in Arizona, Colorado
▶ Watch Video: Officials in Arizona and Colorado seize over 1 million fentanyl pills
The battle against the nation’s fentanyl crisis was on full display this week, as authorities made major busts in Arizona and Colorado. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, education officials were contending with a string of student overdoses.
The Phoenix Police Department reported Friday that its officers had nabbed more than one million fentanyl pills and arrested two people in the biggest seizure in the city’s history.
In Mack, Colorado, on Wednesday, just east of the Utah state line, deputies conducting a traffic stop discovered about 90,000 fentanyl pills in a vehicle, along with 2.4 pounds of fentanyl powder, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office reports. A 22-year-old driver was arrested.
Colorado saw an almost 70% increase in fatal fentanyl overdoses from 2020 to 2021, with more than 900 deaths last year.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the nation, at least seven students have overdosed from possible fentanyl-laced pills in just the past month, the LAPD reported this week. Among them was 15-year-old Melanie Ramos, a high school student who died Sept. 13 after she and another victim took what they believed to be Percocet pills, according to the LAPD. Two teenage boys have been arrested in connection with her death.
On Thursday, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced a plan to distribute Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, to every LAUSD campus within the coming weeks.
“We absolutely need to do better,” said Dr. Adaina Brown, the LAUSD West District superintendent. “We should not be here today mourning a student.”
In the first four months of 2022, the Los Angeles division of the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that it seized approximately 1.5 million fentanyl pills, a 64% increase over the same period last year.
The DEA also issued an advisory last month about what the agency called an “emerging trend” in which “brightly-colored” fentanyl pills were being used to lure youth.
All this comes as the Biden administration announced Friday it was providing $1.5 billion in federal funding to all states to address the opioid crisis.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more powerful than heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl accounting for two-thirds of those, about 71,000.