NEW YORK (PIX11) — Mayor Eric Adams is planning to host a two-day summit on fentanyl next week, complete with “strategy sessions” that will include law enforcement professionals and substance use educators from around the country.
“Fentanyl is now the most common drug involved in overdose deaths in New York City,” an announcement from City Hall said, “including the death of a one-year-old boy in the Bronx earlier this month.”
The mayor’s announcement was referencing the death of Nicholas Dominici, who was three months shy of his second birthday when he failed to wake from a nap on Sept. 15, 2022, at Divino Nino day care on Morris Avenue in the Bronx.
Three other children who attended the same day care were rushed to the hospital and had to be revived with Narcan.
The day care owner and her husband are among four people facing federal charges after a strike force of Drug Enforcement agents and NYPD detectives found “trap doors” in the day care floor that were used to conceal narcotics.
A kilo of fentanyl was allegedly placed in a garbage bag with children’s play mats and kept in a hallway closet.
The City Hall press release pointed out fatal drug overdoses have increased 78 percent in New York City since 2019, with fentanyl detected in 80 percent of those deaths.
Fentanyl has been driving the local—and national—rate of fatal overdoses, with a record 110,684 people dying in the United States in 2022. 70% of those deaths were blamed on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
PIX11 News spoke to Frank Tarentino, Special Agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York.
Tarentino talked about the Bronx man, Juan Gabriel Herrera Vargas, who was charged with moving 13 kilos of fentanyl on the # 4 subway train Tuesday, using a rolling suitcase.
“A very small amount of that is lethal,” Tarentino observed, “and to be moving that on a New York City subway system is completely reckless and irresponsible and it’s putting a lot of New Yorkers at risk.”
The DEA and Office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor said Herrera Vargas was part of a major trafficking and packaging drug mill on Heath Avenue in the Bronx, just six blocks from the day care where little Nicholas Dominici died.
“This is our call to action,” Tarentino said. “We have to save more lives.”
While Mayor Adams is planning to move forward with his summit next week, the Drug Enforcement Administration will have to postpone its second annual “Family Summit” on fentanyl, because of uncertainty about a possible federal government shutdown.
Frank Tarentino said New Yorkers need to know recreational drug use is more dangerous than ever.
“Fentanyl is everywhere and in everything,” Tarentino said. “It’s in cocaine, it’s in heroin, it’s in methamphetamine, and it’s in the form of pills.”