In Riverside County, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the fentanyl epidemic has risen to levels that residents could never have imagined. The town of Temecula, with an estimated population of 115,000, is famous for its historic downtown as well as for being a wine-producing region.
Currently, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin claims the area is facing a threat flowing across the border that is unlike anything that residents have yet experienced: fentanyl. In the past five years, Hestrin claims that the deaths attributed to fentanyl have risen by over 800 percent. While official statistics aren't yet available for 2021, the number of deaths due to fentanyl is predicted to have surpassed the previous year's record-breaking figure.
Hestrin believes that residents are typically unaware of the fact that they are ingesting too much fentanyl, to the point that they must be revived using several doses of the drug Narcan. In one instance, Hestrin said, a woman needed 13 doses of Narcan to restore her health after she consumed an excessive amount of fentanyl.
The region's high rate of deaths from fentanyl has led Hestrin to pursue drug dealers, threatening them with manslaughter when clients eventually die as a result of the use of the drug. A case in Orange County, California, located near Riverside County, involving 14-year-old Alexander Hastings Neville swept national media attention when the teenager passed away after taking a drug that contained Fentanyl.
“We must take a war-like footing against those killing Americans,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) stated this week at a gathering in Temecula. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) proposed a similar procedural plan that would determine each person involved in the fentanyl chain of distribution a murderer in the event that an American dies. “A finger of fentanyl on your lips, you die, and if someone gives you mouth-to-mouth, they also die,” Issa declared.
Although California officials have said that their Democratic-controlled legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom (D) are not interested in helping communities such as Riverside County fight fentanyl dealers, federal prosecutions have seen progress in the last few months. Federal prosecutors from San Diego successfully scored a 25-year sentence for Jahvaris Lamont Springfield, 31 years old, for selling U.S. Army veteran Brendan James Gallagher a death-inducing dose of fentanyl. This was by far the harshest sentence the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California has ever issued for the offense of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death.
In the United States, more than 100,000 Americans die each year due to drug overdoses and from even small doses of fentanyl. In other words, this means that the U.S. is losing a large number of people, equivalent to the population of South Bend, Indiana, each year due to illegal drugs crossing the border.