Alaska State Troopers are warning people of a lethal batch of illegal drugs, likely containing fentanyl, that left three Wasilla residents dead in less than 24 hours last week.
Troopers say the drugs are circulating in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and have been responsible for a rise in overdoses in the area this month.
“At this time, at least three people are believed to have died as a result of drugs likely containing fentanyl, and at least 11 other overdose emergencies have been reported to law enforcement, since April 1,” troopers wrote.
According to a trooper dispatch, the first victim — 42-year-old Valerie Goodwin — was found dead at a Wasilla home at about 8 p.m. Thursday.
About four hours later, troopers received a report of three people who had overdosed at a second Wasilla home. Troopers say two of them — Jerry Karr, 56, and Carla Jester, 41 — were pronounced dead at the scene.
Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Safety, said Monday that the cluster of overdose deaths prompted troopers to send out their warning.
“At this time, we believe that fentanyl was largely the culprit in the deaths and overdose events,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said fentanyl can be lethal at doses as low as 2 milligrams. He said the drug has been responsible for a wave of recent overdoses and deaths across the state. A series of Alaska raids last summer seized nearly 2.5 million doses of the drug, and Southeast Alaska law enforcement officials have seen some fentanyl formed into pills resembling prescription OxyContin.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has asked lawmakers to allow murder charges against those who make or provide drugs used in fatal overdoses. Last month, a federal judge sentenced an Anchorage man to 21 years in prison for his part in a drug ring that brought fentanyl from Mexico to Alaska and nine other U.S. states.
McDaniel confirmed that Mexico is a common source for fentanyl in Alaska. But he declined to discuss the possible origins or other details of the drugs linked to the recent overdose deaths, including if there was a way for Alaskans to recognize the pills.
“The Alaska State Troopers, again, are never going to say that using drugs are safe, there’s no safe batch, there’s no safe quantity of methamphetamine, of heroin, of cocaine or of these counterfeit pills,” McDaniel said. “However, right now, it is extremely dangerous due to this high potency of these illegal drugs that are circulating in the Mat-Su Valley.”
The state Department of Health’s Project Hope provides free doses of overdose-reversing Narcan, with distribution locations and details on the program on its website.
Troopers are asking anyone with information on drug trafficking in the Mat-Su to contact them at (907) 352-5401 or submit an anonymous tip online.