KENNER, La. – A new study shows children are dying of fentanyl poisoning faster than any other age group.
Many of these deaths are children of drug users who are accidentally exposing their kids.
That’s what happened on New Year’s Eve in Kenner, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb. One-year-old Leo Callero was found dead with fentanyl in his system. His family tells us his mother, Alexis Callero was a heroin user and the state was actively investigating his custody, but it was too late.
“It’s really just a numb feeling,” said Leo’s paternal aunt Lexis Staub. “It still feels unreal. We’re just trying to get justice for Leo. This should never happen.”
Captain Michael Cunningham with the Kenner Police Department says in the last year, nearly 100% of the drugs his department has taken off the street have tested positive for fentanyl.
“It’s coming from across the border where they can make hundreds of thousands of pills with a small amount of fentanyl, and we have street-level dealers who are producing their own pills,” Cunningham said.
Alexis Callero is facing murder charges for Leo’s death and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services is investigating its missteps.
Nationwide, welfare agencies are still dealing with staffing shortages since the pandemic, and some children are falling through the cracks.
Meanwhile, Leo’s death is now part of a troubling surge in child fentanyl poisonings.
According to the nonprofit Families Against Fentanyl (FAF), between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl deaths among 1-4-year-olds tripled, and deaths among 5-14-year-olds nearly quadrupled.
“It’s become so prevalent, it’s killing babies and children just by incidental contact,” said FAF Founder Jim Rauh.
Rauh founded Families Against Fentanyl after the drug killed his son in 2015. Since then, he’s been on the front lines, working with political leaders and other advocates on solutions to the fentanyl crisis.
“I want the White House to declare fentanyl by executive order a weapon of mass destruction,” Rauh said. “That’ll put an all government approach on this.”
Rauh says the issues America is facing right now with the drug are “just the beginning” if more action is not taken.
“We’re afraid this could be used for mass casualty events,” Rauh said. “It’s infiltrated schools. It’s infiltrated jails. That means there is no secure environment. With the slightest solvents, it becomes immediately transferrable. God knows what could happen if it infiltrates a food, water or air supply.”