This infographic rom the the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office shows how small a lethal dose of Fentanyl can be.

After 133 people died in Santa Cruz County in 2023 after overdosing on Fentanyl, the Sheriff’s Office has launched a new way to address the problem, with a special focus on the people who deal the dangerous drug.

The Fentanyl Crisis Response Team includes five detectives, a sergeant and a lieutenant, and a drug detection dog. Those numbers have doubled the size of the county’s narcotics enforcement team, says Sheriff Jim Hart.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the California Department of Public Health. There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical and illegally manufactured. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain. Illicit fentanyl is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect.

The number of deaths in the county is compared to 66 people who died last year from homicide, suicide and traffic accidents combined, Hart said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 110,000 people die from drug overdoses every month in the U.S.

“It is a crisis,” Hart  said in a Facebook message.

The office plans to prosecute Fentanyl dealers on the federal level, Hart said. 

The Sheriff’s Office is also partnering with local schools, treatment providers, religious organizations and the community as a whole to take a comprehensive approach to addressing the crisis and stopping young people from using the drug.

“Preventing that first use is super-critical,” Hart said. 

Sheriff’s Lt. Billy Burnett, who will be heading up the team, said that just two milligrams of Fentanyl can be deadly, a troubling fact considering that many dealers disguise the drug as commonly counterfeited drugs such as Oxycodone and Xanax. 

According to Burnett, 7 out of 10 counterfeit pills contain a lethal dose of Fentanyl.

This year, the sheriff’s office seized more than seven pounds of illegal narcotics and a dozen firearms from dealers, he said, and is now investigating overdose deaths as homicide cases.

“The sheriff’s Office is committed to holding Fentanyl dealers responsible for their actions,” Burnett said.

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  1. Sherriff Hart is correct: it is a huge crisis. Fortunately , Narcan is available on all school campuses, including both Cabrillo sites.

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  2. I agree, it is a terrible situation. Having Narcan at the local schools and Cabrillo sites could save many untold lives. Speaking of Cabrillo College, I’m glad that talk of renaming has the College has ended. I guess the community and more importantly donors have had the final word over the trustees foolhardy ideas of changing the name.

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    • not only has it NOT ended, we are just getting started to educate why the Amah Mutsun tribe should rename the college . both college sites are on THEIR land. they were offered NOTHING in 1959 when the first board met to name the school and did no research on who Cabrillo was. Fortunately, I did. there are no plans to rescind our decision, just delay it. the public needs to know why, by a vote of 6-1, we made the decision. look at or to find out the facts that Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo , and his soldiers, were genocidal murderers. The proof is there, and no one can deny it.

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      • The college professor/historian hired by the trustees to research and report on Cabrillo, painted him as somewhat of a benign character, not the miscreant
        they were hoping for…”.Oh, just an opinion”- Matt Wetstein

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        • Well put Dave regardless of what was said above. Money talks and us donors will never allow a name change but we are working on replacing the radical trustees who have tried to bankrupt the college.
          Money talks in elections as well

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        • And President Trump will fix the drug problem I hear he is committed to it!
          Have a great weekend!

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