Fentanyl deaths keep climbing

Redlands Community News

graphic by James Folmer

State Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh has introduced Alexandra’s Law, intended to fight the fentanyl epidemic head-on.

Senate Bill 13 would enact Alexandra’s Law, which would require an individual convicted of distributing certain opiates and narcotics, including fentanyl, to read and sign a written advisory warning of the dangers such actions pose to human life.

“Fentanyl-related deaths have swept my district and state recently,” said Ochoa Bogh. “As a mother, it’s heartbreaking to listen to families describe the tragic deaths of their loved ones. Meeting with Alexandra’s family and learning about her story compelled me to take action immediately and introduce SB 13 on the first day of the 2023-24 legislative session.

“We must join together, fight against these senseless deaths, and hold the individuals who knowingly distribute fentanyl accountable for the irreparable harm they cause.”

In 2019, two days before Christmas, Alexandra Capelouto was found dead due to drug poisoning.

Instead of the oxycodone she believed she had purchased, she had unknowingly consumed five times the fatal amount of fentanyl.

Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which can be as much as 100 times more potent than morphine, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States. Preliminary data shows that in 2021, 5,722 of the 10,416 Californians who died from an overdose died from fentanyl.

In the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County saw a 930% increase in fentanyl-related deaths from 2018 through 2021. There have been 415 fentanyl-related deaths so far in 2022 in Riverside County.

Overdoses have surged because these drugs are much more powerful and are often laced into other illicit drugs without the user's knowledge. By advising a defendant of the dangerousness of their conduct upon conviction, an offender is deterred from such future behavior and conceivably exposed to greater personal accountability in the future, should they opt to re-offend.

SB 13 follows the same warning advisory model established by Vehicle Code 23593, enacted by the State legislature, to require the court to advise a person convicted of DUI of the dangers their actions have on human life.

“The data is shocking. SB 13 is a critical next step in the fight against the drug poisonings sweeping through our communities and hopefully save lives like Alexandra’s,” Ochoa Bogh said.

A similar bill was introduced last year, but Ochoa Bogh was the only one on the five-member Senate Public Safety Committee who voted in favor, so it didn’t move forward.