CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Thursday, Nueces County officials warned the public about a staggering increase in deaths due to fentanyl.
According to the medical examiners office, the number of fentanyl related overdoses in 2021 was 31 compared to three in 2019. The drug is responsible for nearly 32 percent of all overdose deaths in Nueces County.
Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper said proof of the deadly drug making into the area could be seen behind bars.
"More and more fentanyl is finding it’s way into my jail," Hooper said.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times stronger states the CDC.
The drug is distributed in liquid form and is placed onto paper that is being mailed to inmates inside the Nueces County Jail.
“What we're doing now is inspecting mail for any sign of alteration to the paper’” said Sheriff Hooper. “If you see something that looks suspicious or appears doctored, we test it. We have test kits that identify opioids and fentanyl."
The Nueces County Jail houses a little more than 1200 inmates. Hooper added that on any given week, 10 to 15 pieces of mail are testing positive for fentanyl.
“All the research is showing, all of the intelligence is showing that this fentanyl is coming from over the border,” Hooper said.
Sherriff Hooper said fentanyl comes from China, is going through Mexico where cartels are making sure it gets into the U.S. and up the drug corridoor to Houston.
“The drugs are bound for places throughout the United states but they’re also ending up in Nueces county,” he said.
He said staff investigates where the mail came from to the best of their ability, but the return addresses are usually bogus.
Hooper said he plans on spending $150,000 of commissary funding on fentanyl testing machines.
“Every piece of mail that comes in for any sign of alteration to the paper and when we see something that looks suspicious, either because it feels suspicious or it has the appearance of being doctored in some way, then we test it. We have test kits.”