A particularly potent batch of heroin in the Santa Clarita Valley has killed one person and threatened the lives of seven others in a 24-hour period.
Dr. Bud Lawrence, an emergency room physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, told reporters at a “hastily called” press conference Tuesday that hospital medical staff treated eight drug overdose patients Monday night.
Sunday night David Alexander Esquivel, 28, of Castaic, apparently succumbed to overdose and led off the number of people impacted by the drug in a 24-hour period.
“We’ve seen an upsurge in overdose cases in our emergency department in the last 24 hours,” hospital spokesman Patrick Moody told the conference.
The hospital’s emergency room physician, Dr. Bud Lawrence, who talked about the regular medical treatment of drug addicted patients, pointed to an alarming number of patients seen in a 24-hour period Monday night.
“Last night, we had a total of eight cases of patients who came in with overdoses of opiates, of heroin,” Dr. Bud Lawrence told the conference.
“From a public health standpoint, for the emergency department this is of concern to us,” he said. “That there may be something out there the public would be aware of.”
“Occasionally, we see little spikes where there may be a difference in the quality or content of the drugs being ingested,” Lawrence said.
“And, this seems to take a toll on a population of users,” he said. “We did have a fatality (Sunday) night. This is very disconcerting for us.”
Lawrence was joined at the conference podium by Cary Quashen, Henry Mayo Executive Director of Behavioral Health and Director of Action Family Counseling.
“We are in the midst of an epidemic,” Quashen said, echoing comments made in July when he said Santa Clarita Valley has an opioid epidemic.
In the 10 months of having proclaimed an epidemic, Monday’s spate of overdose cases points to a possibly worsening scenario.
“When we see eight people coming to the emergency room with overdoses we have to get the message out there,” Quashen said.
Heroin claimed the lives of 11 people in the Santa Clarita Valley in 2015.
Quashen, reflecting on the latest deadly batch of heroin in SCV, cautioned about its content.
“When someone is buying heroin, they don’t know what its cut with,” he said, referring to the practice of drug dealers expanding their supply by mixing heroin with some other substance.
“Even the dealers sometimes don’t know what it’s cut with,” he said.
“When you stick a needle in your arm, you’re playing Russian roulette,” he said. “It’s a really scary deal.”
Local drug detectives, stunned by the number of sudden overdose cases since Sunday, are scrambling for answers.
“We don’t know what we’re looking at,” Narcotics Detective Bill Velek of the SCV Sheriff Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team told The Signal Tuesday morning when asked about the recent cases.
Just 18 hours after paramedics rushed to Bouquet Canyon Park for a young man found dead in the restroom there, they were dispatched to a similar call involving a young man found alive in the restroom of the Starbucks of Urban Home near the Valencia Westfield Town Center mall.
When asked about the two bathroom cases and about eight other unconfirmed cases in the last 24 hours, Velek said he’s been looking for the same information.
“I’ve been asking the same questions,” Velek said. “Right now, I don’t know what we’re dealing with.
“Are these connected or are they coincidence? I’m looking at everything,” he said.
Velek and his team are investigating both the Bouquet Canyon Park death and the life-threatening overdose incident near the mall, and others.
As detective work gets underway, officials with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department are expected to perform an autopsy Wednesday on the body of David Esquivel.
Esquivel would have turned 29 this Friday.
Editor’s note (1:56 p.m.): The number of victim’s killed by heroin overdose has been reduced from two to one after Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital officials revised their data.