The deadly heroin-fentanyl mix has claimed the life of yet another unsuspecting victim. Alton Banks, a 10-year-old, fifth-grader at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, died post a trip to the local swimming pool on June 23, 2017. Alton started vomiting when he returned from the pool and was found unconscious in the evening. He was rushed to the Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On July 18, 2017, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle shared the results of Alton’s early toxicology report, which confirmed that the boy’s death had been caused by an overdose of fentanyl. Considered to be the youngest victim of the state’s opioid crisis, Alton had the deadly drug in his system when he collapsed at his Overtown home.
Although the reason for his death has been confirmed, it is still unknown how he came in contact with the drug. According to State Attorney Rundle, “We don’t believe he got it at his home. It could be as simple as touching it. It could have been a towel at the pool. We just don’t know.” Investigators also believe that Alton may have been exposed to the deadly drug on his way home. Pete Gomez, assistant fire rescue chief, Miami, expressed grief over the loss of such a young life saying that the neighborhood of Overtown, where Alton lived, had seen a recent spike in overdose cases with needles sometimes littering the streets. Still unable to piece how Alton’s last day progressed, authorities have called upon the public to help by reporting any clues related to his death or the presence of a drug dealer in the neighborhood.
According to Alton’s mother, Shantell Banks, he was a fun kid who loved Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton was his favorite player. As per her, Alton wanted to become an engineer when he grew up.
Fentanyl, a Schedule II drug, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Approved for treating chronic pain patients, recent cases of fentanyl-related overdoses have been linked to illegally manufactured fentanyl, sold through illegitimate drug markets and often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine to increase the potency of the drug and the profit margins of the dealers.
The Florida Medical Examiner’s Office reports that there has been a 135 percent jump in fentanyl-related deaths in the Sunshine State. While the report showed a 25 percent increase in heroin-related deaths, opioid deaths have seen a record high in the history of the state. The newly released figures reveal that the first half of 2016 witnessed 803 fatalities with 183 fatalities due to overdosing on fentanyl analogs.
In a move to counter the state’s growing opioid epidemic, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an order declaring the opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency across the state. He also introduced a law this year calling for minimum mandatory prison time for people caught with more than 4 grams of fentanyl or carfentanil. Additionally, drug dealers may now have to face murder charges and be held accountable in cases of overdose and death. The new law makes it easier for the state to pursue charges against drug traffickers for other deadly drugs including synthetic marijuana, codeine and similar substances.
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