(KRON) — As the death count from fentanyl continues to climb in the Bay Area, KRON4 spoke with the mothers of four people who died from the deadly drug. You can watch the full story using the video player above.
The four mothers share a tragic bond — each losing their beloved child to the same drug.
“He was exposed by taking other drugs that he thought was something else,” Tori Knopp said about her son, Xander. “He’d experimented. I came home from work and he was face-down on his bedroom floor. So, there’s no way to describe that.”
Each of the other three mothers has a similar story. Jessica Schiller’s daughter Naomi was a straight-A student before taking a $15 Uber to San Francisco’s Tenderloin District to buy drugs and ended up suffering from fentanyl poisoning.
Teenagers have experimented and made mistakes for generations, but with fentanyl on the streets, the consequences are deadly, the women said.
“When we were young and we were experimenting, or whatever that is, there wasn’t this type of consequence,” said Vicki Dowell, whose son Jacob suffered fatal fentanyl poisoning last December.
So, what can be done to slow down the destruction caused by the drug? The mothers say it is imperative to get the word out early to teenagers and young adults, and for families to buy in.
Meanwhile, Schiller says the City of San Francisco deserves some blame as well.
“People are laughing at San Francisco,” she said. “It is not the same city that it once was. And that we have this open-air drug market and kids like all of ours are dying. So, I asked Mayor London Breed, bring my daughter back. To allow this is just so painful.”
Michelle Leopold, whose son Trevor died from fentanyl, believes everybody needs to work together to quell the damage. One part of that, she says, is harsh punishments for those who sell the deadly drug.
“One of the things that is holding a lot of the bills back is the desire not to put more people into jails and prisons,” she said. “And yet these are murders. Yet all four of our children are dead because of fentanyl and there’s no consequences.”
What should parents do to ensure their kid doesn’t meet the same fate as the mothers who spoke to KRON4?
Knopp: “Pay attention to them. Please take stigma away. It’s not about ‘This couldn’t happen to my child because my child is a straight-A student.'”
Schiller: “Don’t be naive. If you find one pill in your kid’s backpack or in their desk at home, chances are it’s far worse than what you really think it is.”
Dowell: “We need to have Narcan in our homes, in our cars and backpacks. We all need to have to have it. I might’ve had a different outcome.”
Leopold: “Education about knowing that fentanyl is in almost every drug that you don’t get from your pharmacist is so important. And then the other personal message, I’m so grateful that Trevor and I always said ‘I love you.’ So keep saying ‘I love you’ because you never know when it will be the last time.”
KRON4 reached out to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Sen. Scott Wiener and Sen. Nancy Skinner for comment. Skinner did not respond. Read statements from Breed and Wiener below.
“Mayor Breed is focused on getting fentanyl and other drugs plaguing our communities off the streets and ensuring that those who are threatening the wellbeing of our community and contributing to this crisis are held accountable.
Just last week, SFPD announced that it has seized more than 123 kilograms of narcotics, including 80 kilograms of fentanyl in the Tenderloin so far in 2023, surpassing the total amount of drugs seized in all of 2022.
The work to tackle the overdose crisis includes expanding treatment and services. The City is investing in inpatient treatment expansion to achieve its 400 bed-goal, a growth in abstinence-based program offerings, as well as additional overdose prevention supports in high-risk settings for those who are experiencing homelessness on our streets and in single room occupancy hotel settings. In October of this year, the City will be launching the implementation of CARE Courts, serving people living with untreated mental health and substance use disorders, and will be one of the first counties to do so across the State. Sadly, we know there are a number of people struggling with addiction who will not accept this help and while we cannot force them, we will continue to do outreach, offer services, and work to support changes to the law to compel people into care and save lives.
The Mayor understands the pain and frustration that comes with the loss of a family member to an overdose as someone with lived experience. She has been engaged with individuals personally affected by the fentanyl crisis. Recently, she met with family members who are personally affected by drug addiction and overdose deaths and discussed their concerns and ideas on how to work collaboratively on solutions and follow up care for those dealing with addiction and mental health challenges.”
“My heart goes out to the families here in California and across the country who have lost loved ones to the fentanyl public health disaster. No one should have to go through the nightmare of losing a loved one to fentanyl.
The fentanyl crisis is taking a devastating toll here in California and across the country. Fentanyl is killing people everywhere, including in states with incredibly harsh drug sentencing laws. If harsh prison terms were the solution to drug use and overdoses, we would have ended drug use a long time ago. Yet that has not happened.
In California, the penalties for dealing fentanyl are already severe. We don’t need harsher sentences. Rather, we need consistency of enforcement of the laws we already have on the books, in addition to much stronger public health and education outreach so people understand the risks of using fentanyl and the risks of taking pills that may be contaminated.
If I thought SB 44 would save lives, I would have supported it. But I don’t think SB 44 would save lives. Rather it will result in people getting swept up in life sentences for selling substances even if they had no idea the substance contained fentanyl. I made very clear that if SB 44 were amended to require that the person knew or should have knows that the substance contained fentanyl, I would support it. The author decided not to accept that amendment.
I believe in holding the dealers fueling this crisis accountable, but putting people in prison for life when they had no idea they were even selling fentanyl makes no sense to me. It’s not an effective strategy, and I stand by my vote.”