Tragedy Strikes Bronx Community: Child's Overdose Reveals Deeper Opioid Battle


NY- Rosa, a resident who commutes past Divino Niño Daycare in the Bronx daily, recently found herself in disbelief when the facility turned into a crime scene. The shocking incident occurred on September 15th when a one-year-old boy tragically succumbed to a suspected drug overdose. Authorities disclosed that fentanyl had been concealed beneath a mat used by the children for napping.

Three other youngsters were rushed to the hospital, prompting the arrest of the daycare's owner, Grei Mendez, 36, and her tenant, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, on charges related to narcotics possession with intent to distribute resulting in death.

Rosa, who operates her own childcare center nearby, expressed her astonishment, saying, "Never in a million years did I think that was happening there." She requested to remain anonymous due to concerns about potential repercussions.

Several residents shared with the BBC their deep-seated shock and broader apprehensions about the Bronx community's struggle with the opioid crisis. New York City Council Member Eric Dinowitz, whose district covers the neighborhood, deemed the incident "atrocious and so tragic."

Divino Niño Daycare is situated in Kingsbridge Heights, a predominantly Hispanic and Latino enclave in the northwest Bronx. Long-standing issues of drug trafficking, homelessness, and underinvestment have plagued the community, according to Mr. Dinowitz and other locals who grew up in the area.

Research from New York University reveals that in 2021, 27% of the Kingsbridge Heights population lived in poverty, surpassing the 18% citywide average. Additionally, Bronx residents experienced the highest rate of drug overdose deaths among all New York City boroughs that year.

Israel Sterling, a Kingsbridge Heights resident, noted that conditions in the area had deteriorated since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. He expressed sorrow over the tragic incident but remarked, "It's sad that the little boy lost his life, but that's an everyday thing."

Rosa recounted being warned by local drug dealers not to establish her daycare center just blocks away from Divino Niño in 2017, as it would impede their business. Faced with limited employment opportunities, she persevered, driven by a desire to provide specialized childcare in an area lacking high-quality options.

Residents in the vicinity argue that stricter regulations and more rigorous inspections of childcare facilities could have averted this tragedy. Even though inspectors conducted a surprise visit to Divino Niño a week prior to the incident, no violations were found. However, investigators later discovered a significant quantity of fentanyl, along with other drugs and paraphernalia hidden beneath a trapdoor at the daycare.

Mr. Dinowitz defended the city officials' efforts, asking, "Are we now asking inspectors to pry up the floorboards and look for trapdoors?" He and other community members advocate for comprehensive measures to address the opioid crisis and its root causes.

New York City councilmembers have advocated for initiatives such as syringe exchange programs and mandating schools to have the overdose drug Narcan readily available. Local groups have also endeavored to tackle homelessness and hunger in the area. However, Mr. Dinowitz contends that the government must allocate more resources, including educational, workforce development, and community center initiatives, to combat rising poverty and drug trafficking issues in Bronx neighborhoods.

"This isn't just about looking for the drugs," he emphasized. "It's about investment in a community." He concluded, "The death of a baby shouldn't be the wake-up call that we need to take these problems seriously."