One man has died and a dozen others were hospitalized in Chico on Saturday morning due to apparent drug overdoses, according to authorities.
All 13 victims were found at a home in the 1100 block of Santana Court after a call came in at around 9 a.m. from someone inside the residence, Chico Police Chief Michael O’Brien said during a press conference.
The city responded with all of its fire resources, Chico Fire Department Chief Steve Standridge said, including every ambulance.
O’Brien said the mass overdose incident was probably caused by fentanyl, a highly potent opioid.
“Every indication — talking to medical staff, talking to doctors — everything is consistent with a fentanyl or fentanyl similar-type overdose,” O’Brien said. “That will be confirmed in the coming days with some more sophisticated testing.”
O’Brien said officers administered both CPR and six doses of Naloxone after they arrived at the home to find multiple individuals in what appeared to be life-threatening overdose conditions.
One man was pronounced dead at the scene, and 12 other people were taken to Enloe Medical Center, O’Brien said. Four of the victims are in critical condition, while eight remain under hospital care.
The victims range in ages from at least 19 to around 30 years old, and were all either friends or acquaintances, O’Brien said.
“Generally, these were all people who knew each other,” O’Brien said.
The first two officers at the scene were also treated at the hospital after complaining about symptoms that may have been brought on by exposure to the drug, O’Brien said. Both have been released and are in good condition.
These types of drugs are “extraordinarily dangerous,” O’Brien said. Even minute amounts can be life-threatening.
It was unclear if the victims were targeted, as well as where the fentanyl originated and if there are any more batches in circulation, O’Brien said. The investigation remains in its early stages, and further testing will be required to confirm that fentanyl was involved.
The home is being treated as a hazardous materials site, and Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force personnel were still at the scene, O’Brien said.
But O’Brien emphasized that the public is not in any danger.
O’Brien credited emergency responders, hospital staff and the use of Naloxone for minimizing the drug’s effects.
Chico police officers began carrying Naloxone in 2018 after receiving a grant from the Butte County Health Department, O’Brien said.
Naloxone is an antidote for heroin, fentanyl and other opioids.
“We do respond to many, many overdoses,” O’Brien said. “And particularly with the opioid crisis that is occurring everywhere in this country to include Chico, California, we wanted to have in the hands of those officers who are often times first on scene the ability to administer a life-saving drug.”
Most of the overdoses officers respond to in Chico where Naloxone is used have been for heroin overdoses but not fentanyl, and O’Brien said it was concerning to see its effects in Chico on Saturday.
“We were waiting, and have been waiting unfortunately, for this to happen in the sense that we knew fentanyl had been moving west,” O’Brien said, adding that fentanyl hasn’t been as much of a problem in Chico as it has been in other parts of the country. “That is changing unfortunately, and now we’ve had this mass casualty incident ... likely to have been cause by fentanyl.
“That should concern us all,” he said.