At least seven unhoused Santa Clara County residents have died from fentanyl overdoses in the past three weeks, and the potent drug is suspected in other recent deaths, including an inmate at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas last month, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Drug overdoses are driving an increase in overall homeless deaths, prosecutors said. Some 36 people died between July 9 and Aug. 9, compared with 16 during the same period last year.
Prosecutors said the inmate who died at the jail on July 22 is believed to have ingested powdered fentanyl.
In addition, the drug in an unknown form is believed to have played a role in the death of a juvenile in Morgan Hill on Aug. 3. Other deaths attributed to fentanyl were reported in Santa Clara on July 26, Sunnyvale on July 18, and Mountain View on May 21.
The San Jose Police Department METRO Unit recently seized more than 4 ounces of fentanyl powder from a person, prosecutors said, adding that it could have been turned into more than 50,000 fatal doses if pure.
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Prosecutors said the number of recorded fentanyl deaths in the county has risen in recent years. There were 27 in 2019 and 88 in 2020. At least 44 have been reported so far this year.
“COVID is not the only health crisis we are facing in Santa Clara County, and delta is not the only deadly variant,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “We are committed to work alongside advocates and addicts, police and parents, to stop these overdoses and save lives.”
Anyone who needs drug or alcohol treatment can contact the Gateway Program at 800-488-9919. Narcan, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, is also available through Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services.