A package containing several thousand dollars worth of fentanyl was discovered inside the New York City day care center where a 1-year-old child died from a toxic opioid exposure last week, police and city officials said.
The owner of the day care center, however, maintained she had no knowledge of the presence of the highly potent drug, which sickened three other young children, including an 8-month-old girl who tested positive for fentanyl.
Residue of the drug was found underneath a mat where the children had napped, Joseph Kenny, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives, said at a news conference Monday evening.
Grei Mendez, who operated the Divino Niño day care inside a Bronx apartment, pleaded not guilty on Sunday to murder charges in the death of Nicholas Dominici. A man who rented a room inside the apartment, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, is awaiting arraignment on the same set of charges.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, has become a primary driver of soaring overdose deaths both nationally and in New York City. Illegally made fentanyl is often added to other drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, to increase its potency.
Unintentional drug overdoses among children are also on the rise, with opioids the most common substance contributing to fatal poisoning of kids.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, children were found to have orally ingested the substance, rather than touching or inhaling it in the air, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.