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South Bay lawmaker introduces bill aimed at preventing fentanyl poisoning deaths among children

South Bay leaders hope a tragic overdose death of a San Jose infant can lead to change and save lives.

Phoenix Castro was just 3 months old when she died of fentanyl poisoning in May 2023. Santa Clara County officials said both police and child protective services responded to the apartment several times in the months before the child died. But never removed baby phoenix from the home.

18-month-old Winter Rayo also died of fentanyl poisoning in her family’s San Jose home. Records show she had 15 times the lethal amount of fentanyl in her blood. Her parents are facing charges in connection to her death.

In response to those deaths, State Sen. Dave Cortese recently introduced new legislation to establish statewide policies to protect the California’s youngest children from fentanyl exposure.

“Clearly, we’re starting to see incidents and in some cases fatal, like with baby Phoenix, where anything we can do to establish best practices, guidelines, what to do, what not to do and export that across all 58 counties. So all of California are treating it the same way as a crisis that it is,” he said.

Cortese said he wants state health leaders to focus on determining when it’s appropriate for children under five to return to live with parents who have substance abuse cases.

“With this particular age group, when you are talking about a baby that’s 6 months old or a year old or a toddler, there may need to be more of a cooling down period before reunification,” he said.

Michelle Leopold of Greenbrae lost her own son Trevor to fentanyl poisoning in 2019. While she supports new legislation to fight fentanyl, she feels the bill is too vague.

“I believe we need to see more of what this legislation spells out,” she said. “I think it’s important to protect kids under 5 from fentanyl, especially if their parents have fentanyl drugs in the house that are easily reachable.”

But Leopold said that she agrees offering statewide guidelines is a better strategy than each county implementing their own.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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