LOS GATOS, Calif. - The parents of Linus Blom said the Los Gatos High School senior was a star wrestler on the rise. He was even asked to try out for the Finnish national team.
Then the COVID pandemic, depression, and drug experimentation led to a fateful and fatal dose of fentanyl in 2020, just days before his 18th birthday.
"The detective mentioned they suspect that there was a laced pill, that he was able to get and access. And that laced pill probably had a dosage of fentanyl," said his father, Jan Blom.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and a team of South Bay leaders Friday announced the formation of the Fentanyl Working Group. Its goal is to combat what members called a public health crisis.
"Don’t kid yourself. No one is immune from this deadly drug," said Chavez. "Fentanyl is causing a rising number of deaths, particularly among 18 to 25-year-olds."
The Santa Clara County coroner reported that fentanyl overdose deaths are on an upward trajectory since 2015. That year, there were nine. The number increased the following two years and ballooned to 135 last year. There have been eight fentanyl-related deaths in the first three months of this year.
"It’s the dynamic increase of fentanyl found in the drugs that they buy on the streets, use at parties," said Bruce Copely, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Alcohol and Drug Services.
Experts said one fentanyl-laced pill produces a high more powerful and addictive than powder cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, or heroin.
"Your brain gets flooded with these neurotransmitters that make you feel amazing, right? And as soon as that drug wears off, the craving amps up," said Dr. Erin Woodhead, a San Jose State University substance use treatment specialist.
The 15-member Fentanyl Working Group is developing a media campaign targeting mass transit, schools, social media, and traditional media about the deadly consequences of using drugs tainted by fentanyl.
On April 15 a specialized enhancement team in the district attorney's office will target dealers who sell fentanyl-laced drugs. If those dealers are convicted, they can be charged with murder for overdose deaths.
"Eventually we hope to have a coordinated response investigating the fentanyl poisoning deaths here," said Edward Leong, of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office major crimes division.
Such efforts are welcome but come too late for Jan Blom and his family. They’ll never know how far their son’s athletic talents could have taken him.
"We’re never going to forget Linus. And his death will always impact us," said the boy's father.