Local experts say illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has become a “drug staple” in the region as common as cocaine and methamphetamine, and it accounts for hundreds of fatal overdoses annually.
Another tragic reminder of that disturbing trend came this week as a Northern Kentucky 2-year-old died from ingesting his mother’s fentanyl. Lauren Baker, 33, has been charged with murder as prosecutors said she took a shot of fentanyl before going to sleep with her son, Jaxson, who found the drug in her purse and overdosed.
Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said Jaxson was found lying in Baker’s lap.
“I don’t think you need to be a toxicologist or have a medical degree to figure out that consuming fentanyl may significantly impact your ability to wake up and be cognizant of the fact that your child is getting into your purse where you keep your fentanyl,” Sanders said.
Tri-State drug experts started tracking fentanyl deaths in 2012; In 2020, the number of fatal overdoses related to fentanyl was more than double what they saw eight years ago.
Newtown, Ohio Police Chief Tom Synan, of the Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition, said fentanyl accounted for 432 fatal overdoses in the region last year. Local first responders are called to 50-70 overdose runs per week, 90% of which are related to fentanyl.
“That's what fentanyl does,” he said. “It brings a lot of devastation.”
Synan said the issue with fentanyl, and the more potent carfentanil, is that it takes very little compared to heroin or cocaine to have a deadly impact.
“There's no way to get rid of it. The issue it causes us, from a local level or anyone responding, is that we're constantly in emergency mode, constantly responding to overdose after overdose,” he said.
Because less of the drug is needed to have a potentially lethal effect, it has become difficult for law enforcement agencies to track down.
“It's hard to find, hard to intercept,” Synan said. “When it hits the street, it's too late. When someone is using it, the devastation on human beings, families, the community -- you can't repair it once it's done.”
Baker is being held in the Kenton County Detention Center without bond awaiting a Tuesday afternoon court date. While her two other young children were not at home when the incident occurred, the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children is conducting an investigation to ensure they're safe.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, know that you don’t have to struggle alone. Visit these resources for help where you live:
- Addiction Services Council: (513) 281-7880, or 24/7 hotline (513) 281-7422
- Adolescent Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) Cincinnati: (513) 792-1272
- Beckett Springs: (513) 817-0907
- BrightView: (513) 834-7063
- The Crossroads Center: (513) 475-5300
- Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services: Concern line (513) 354-5285
- Prospect House:(513) 921-1613
- Talbert House: (513) 751-7747
- Urban Minority Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Outreach Program of Cincinnati
- Addiction Services Council: (859) 415-9280
- Brighton Center: (859) 481-8303
- Commonwealth Substance Abuse Specialists: (859) 371-4455
- Find Help Now Kentucky
- NKY People Advocating Recovery: (859) 292-2482
- NKY Hates Heroin
- NorthKey Community Care: Crisis line (859) 331-3292
- Recovery Network of NKY: (859) 431-2134
- St. Elizabeth Alcohol and Drug Treatment: (859) 757-0717
- Community Mental Health Center: 24/7 (812) 537-1302
- Dearborn County Citizens Against Substance Abuse: (812) 532-3538
- East Indiana Treatment Center: (812) 537-1668
- Groups Recover Together: (800) 683-8313
- Indiana Comprehensive Treatment Centers: (888) 271-3073
- Margaret Mary Health: (812) 933-5406
- Narcotics Anonymous: 1-800-587-4232
- SAMSHA: 1-800-622-4357