NYC police probe day care facility after toddler dies and 3 other children are sickened by opioids
By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN
NEW YORK (AP) — A kilo press used in the packaging of drugs was found at a New York City day care facility, where authorities say four toddlers were exposed to dangerous levels of opioids, possibly killing a 1-year-old boy.
Police and ambulance crews rushed to the day care facility after receiving a 911 call just before 3 p.m. Friday. When they got there, they found three of the children showing signs of opioid poisoning. Medics used the overdose-reversing medication Narcan to save two of the children — an 8-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy in critical condition.
The 1-year-old, identified by police as Nicholas Dominici, was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
Earlier in the day, another 2-year-old was rushed to a hospital when his mother grew alarmed after picking him up shortly after noon from the same day care facility, identified by police as Divino Niño. Narcan was used to revive the boy, who remains in stable condition.
Police executed a search warrant and found a so-called kilo press at the day care facility, which NYPD Chief of Detectives Joe Kenny described as “an item that is commonly used by drug dealers when packaging large quantities of drugs.”
At an early morning press conference, Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, vowed to “find out the cause of the incident."
The medical examiner's office said it was continuing its work on confirming the child's cause of death.
The young ages of the children, he said, was heartbreaking.
“This crisis is real, and it is a real wake-up call for individuals who have opioids or fentanyl in their homes. The mere contact is deadly for an adult and it’s extremely deadly for a child,” said Adams, who spoke with the parents of the child who died.
“Seeing the pain that they are experiencing is something that all of us as New Yorkers are experiencing,” he said
Officials said the day care center had been open since January and a “surprise inspection” was conducted a week ago, the city's health commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, said at the Saturday morning press conference.
“This is a new site that was opened in January of just this year, and had its routine inspections: two, in the beginning in order to get its license, and one surprise visit — that was the September 9th site — and no violations were found,” he said.
Vasan said the opioid crisis has been among his department's priorities.
“That’s been brought home to bear in this challenge we face,” he said. “A small child — not someone we would think would be at risk of interacting with opioids — has come into contact with a powerful substance which can through either inhalation, ingestion or in touching of the skin, intoxicate the recipient.”
What's become even more concerning, according to health officials, is that opioids are perhaps the most common cause of fatal poisonings among the country's youngest children.
A study published by a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, culling data from 40 states between 2005 and 2018, found a dramatic rise in the number of young children dying from opioid poisoning.
In 2005 about a quarter of the poisoning deaths were attributed to opioids, including Fentanyl, the study found. Three years later, it was more than half — and some experts fear that it might have grown worse since then.
The number of opioid-related deaths in New York City has continued to escalate. In 2021, the latest statistical year available, the city recorded nearly 2,700 overdose deaths in NYC, compared with about 2,100 the year before.
About every 4 in 5 of those deaths were because of Fentanyl, according to the report released in January, which also noted that communities of color and the city's poorest neighborhoods have been the hardest hit by the crisis.
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