Local Father and His 13 Month-Old Son Dead, Victims of Opioid Crisis

A 29-year-old local Santa Rosa man, Patrick O’Neill, was found unresponsive lying next to his 13 month-old son on Saturday, Sept. 14 in a back bedroom of a house on Derek Lane. Despite the heroic efforts of emergency personnel, the child was pronounced dead at the scene.

Family friend Michael Arevalo, 39, told the San Francisco Chronicle that “the toddler likely died after accidentally ingesting the fentanyl that O'Neill had consumed before overdosing.”

Paramedics transported the father to a local hospital, and detectives were waiting for his medical condition to clear before charging him with child endangerment and the murder of his infant son. On Saturday, however, the investigation took a new turn, as Oneill, facing life-threatening injuries, passed away as a result of a drug overdose. 

 According to the Chronicle, O’Neill was taken off life support on Monday, Sept. 16. Friends and family reported his death on Facebook Monday night, and Santa Rosa police confirmed the fact Tuesday morning.

Demian O’Neill, Patrick’s father, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that toxicology reports indicated that Patrick “died of liver failure apparently caused by a fentanyl overdose.”

Drug paraphernalia was located near the bodies, and while investigators have yet to release details, toxicology results reveal the presence of fentanyl in both father and son.  Investigators now want to know who sold Patrick the fentanyl, and detectives are actively working to eradicate illegal opioids in Sonoma County.

Patrick was battling addiction, and recent efforts to get clean led friends and family to believe that he was getting the help he needed. The relapse and deaths caught many by surprise, and friends remember Patrick as a compassionate father that loved his son.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids...and in 2017, 47,000 Americans died as the result of opioid overdose.”  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents the fact that fentanyl is a synthetic opioid at the center of the nation’s addiction crisis, and it “is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.” Fentanyl has been blamed for thousands of deaths across the country, and the CDC reports that most overdoses are the result of illegally made fentanyl that is mixed into heroin and cocaine products in order to maximize profits.  

Consumers purchasing illicit drugs are generally unaware of the mixture, and this can cause unintended overdoses. The nation experienced a spike in synthetic opioid deaths, jumping 47% from 2016-17, and seizures increased nearly seven fold from 2012-14, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.

While the War on Drugs has consumed billions of dollars and imprisoned millions since its inception in the 1970s, today we are facing a public health crisis the likes of which the country has never known.  Increasing and enforcing penalties for drug users has proven to be a dead-end road. Addiction is a mental health issue that is devastating families and causing unnecessary hardships across all walks of life.  

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that help is available. Sonoma County offers detox services at the Turning Point Orenda Detox Center, contracted through the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center. The program provides 24-hour support, alcohol and drug education, and relapse prevention education. For more information, call (707) 565-7460.