Cluster of Fentanyl overdose deaths in Santa Clara County linked to tainted methamphetamines

A toxic batch of methamphetamine laced with Fentanyl contributed to a cluster of seven overdose deaths in the last three weeks among homeless individuals in San Jose.

The Narcotics Unit of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office believes the tainted drugs are still circulating throughout the county, and efforts are underway to prevent another overdose.

"We've lost a lot of people this year," Isaiah Nunes, an unsheltered San Jose resident said, noting that he's heard of many more than seven recent incidents of Fentanyl overdose deaths among homeless individuals. 

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner recorded 44 Fentanyl overdose deaths so far this year, outpacing 2020's record of 88 deaths. in 2019 there were 27 deaths recorded.

Outreach teams partnered with Santa Clara County went to San Jose encampments Friday morning. Nunes was near an encampment on the outskirts of Roosevelt Parks and received a dose of Narcan to reverse the effects of an overdose, and a drug test kit to identify any traces of Fentanyl.

"It could save our lives, this test right here," Nunes said.

Brian Buckelew, the supervising deputy district attorney of the Narcotics unit at the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, says his office is working to get the word out "as fast as mobile to alert folks that the drugs they are taking may be fatal."

Scott Wagers, the pastor at CHAM Ministry who advocates for affordable housing and support for the South Bay's growing homeless community, thinks test kits are the jumping-off point for County officials to provide further resources to unhoused residents.

"We need to do it on all levels all the time, to come out here and interact with people. Because you can build bridges with people, I've proven that" Wagers said.

Nunes is grateful for the interaction he had today and said he feels better equipped to avoid taking a drug laced with Fentanyl and potentially help someone else avoid a Fentanyl overdose too.

"It is scary," Nunes said. "I'm an addict. I use and addiction is real. I'll let you know right now it helps. You know they're passing out stuff like this to try to prevent that. It's tragic."