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Fetanyl Overdoses In Wilton Manors Hits Close To Home For Rep. Ted Deutch Who Lost Family Member To Drug

WILTON MANORS (CBSMiami) – Six college kids, enjoying Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, were hospitalized after overdosing on cocaine laced with fentanyl on Thursday.

One day later, five of the six remain hospitalized, including two who are intubated and listed in serious condition.

Some in the group were identified as students at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.

The students were partying at an Airbnb home in Wilton Manors when four of them went into cardiac arrest.

Two friends tried to help by performing CPR were then exposed to the extremely potent drug and also fell ill.

The overdoses hit particularly close to home with Congressman Ted Deutch. Not only does he represent Wilton Manors, but last year his nephew died from accidentally ingesting fentanyl.

"My nephew died from an accidental fentanyl ingestion when he actually took kratom, which is an herbal supplement that is legal in many states still around the country, including Florida," Deutch told CBS4's Jim DeFede. "And in it, it was laced with fentanyl, unbeknownst to him, obviously, and horrifically for my family."

Fentanyl is extremely potent. It's 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and used to treat severe pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention.

"We have to acknowledge the number of times that people, young people especially, are accidentally ingesting fentanyl. And it takes so little to kill people that we've seen this dramatic rise in overdoses. Again, it's an accident. When someone takes a lethal supplement and it's laced with fentanyl, it's an accident. When someone takes what they believe is Adderall or Xanax that they bought online, that social media companies haven't done enough to stop, and it's laced with fentanyl. And in this case, in Wilton Manors, it's an accident when someone is experimenting with drugs. Whatever our views are of that, the drugs are illegal, but they don't need to die. And we've got to acknowledge it," said Deutch.

A 2020 report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows three districts in South Florida are in the top 10 for fentanyl-related deaths.

The Fort Lauderdale area is the highest.

"I'd like to live in a world where every young person behaved in a way that was safe every minute of the day and that no one of the young people never, never drank dangerous amounts, never tried drugs. It's not. It's not realistic. And we ought to be doing everything we can to keep people safe. So, in this instance, these are kids who tried, apparently reportedly tried cocaine. And there are ways to make sure that in this case, they would not have been laced with fentanyl. The way to do that is to fentanyl test strips. These are legal in many states around the country, but not in Florida," said Deutch.

Deutch has been raising alarms about fentanyl for more than a year but just this week, legislation that would have help avoid fentanyl tragedies was killed.

"Jim, what you should know and what your viewers should know is that just this week, after the Florida Senate passed legislation to legalize fentanyl test strips that kids could use to save their own lives to prevent what we saw in Wilton Manors just this week, the House of Representatives in Tallahassee stripped out the language. killed the bill, killed the language that would have legalized fentanyl test strips because they were worried about encouraging drug use. It is short sighted. It is wrong."

He added, "The fact that the same week that in my district in South Florida, these young people had this exposure to fentanyl, the state was acting to try to give them the tools to protect themselves and the Florida house just in the past 24 hours took that language out. The language that state attorney up in Palm Beach County worked so hard on. This is this is a problem. We need to take action to help people stay safe."

While there is an investigation underway to try and find the person who provided the drugs, Deutch says fentanyl has to be stopped from coming across the border.

"We have to be doing everything. We have to stop the chemicals that are used for fentanyl from being sent from China to Mexico. We have to stop the fentanyl from coming across the border, from Mexico to the United States. We have to prosecute the hell out of people who are selling products, selling drugs that are laced with the product that they know a tiny dose can kill."

The congressman says he wants families to know kids are at risk all across the country.

"Sometimes it's by taking a drug that's an illegal drug. It's laced with fentanyl. Sometimes it's by taking what they believe is Adderall or Xanax or some other drug that they thought they bought legally on Instagram or on Snapchat, which in fact is laced with fentanyl and it is killing people."

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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