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Two Jacksonville couples arrested for child neglect after infants test positive for fentanyl

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two Jacksonville couples were arrested on child neglect charges within one month of each other. In both cases, their infant children tested positive for fentanyl.

“The calls are going up,” Florida Poison Control Center spokesperson Mike McCormick said.

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The calls and the number of deaths related to fentanyl are increasing year after year.

Not only drug users are falling to the synthetic opioid. Reports show drug users’ children are also at risk.

This week the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested Christian Johnson and Danielle Smith on felony child neglect charges.

According to the arrest report, an infant in their care died in February. The medical examiner discovered the baby’s skull was fractured and there was fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. Despite that, his cause of death was ruled undetermined.

The couple claimed neither of them did drugs, but investigators found the two bought, sold and used heroin and cocaine while caring for the infant.

Health officials said it only takes a few grains of fentanyl to put you in a bad situation.

“It is in illicit street drugs like cocaine. It’s in methamphetamine. It’s also being put into fake pills that are being released that look like medicine you take every day,” McCormick said.

Action News Jax first told you when another couple was charged with child neglect after their 9-month-old baby stopped breathing. Court documents said that baby tested positive for fentanyl. She luckily survived.

Read: Couple arrested for child neglect after baby overdoses on fentanyl

Children getting ahold of fentanyl across the state is becoming more common according to data from the Florida Poison Control Center.

From 2013 to 2022, calls about fentanyl poisoning in kids under 6 have gradually increased.

McCormick pointed out that these numbers are probably even higher since fentanyl is usually mixed with other drugs and not reported specifically.

UF Chief of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics Dr. Randell Alexander said parents often leave their drugs out in easy-to-reach places.

“Sadly the people that are into drugs a lot are careless sometimes about where they leave things. And so children can get in trouble of course,” Dr. Alexander said.

Here in Jacksonville over the past few years, he said he’s seen the worst possible outcomes come from this.

“We’ve had several kids over that time period actually die where it was fentanyl,” Dr. Alexander said.

Project Opioid shared this data with us when it comes to the number of fentanyl deaths in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties:

2018201920202021
Jan. to June
276430588312

A spokesperson for Project Opioid said it takes awhile for data from the entire year to come back to ensure its accuracy.

We reached out to the Florida Department of Health for their data on fentanyl-related incidents with kids 6 and under and have not heard back yet.

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