NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — We’re in the heart of festival season in New Orleans, which means thousands of people will be out and about, partying the night away.

But city officials are warning of a silent killer that’s on the streets.

“What we saw during the NCAA or with the resurgence of visitors in our city, is just an uptick in deaths relative to overdoses, but particularly fentanyl being laced in different drugs,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

The New Orleans Coroner’s Office released disturbing new information about fentanyl overdoses over the last year.

According to the report, 492 people died from an accidental overdose in 2021. Of the 462 cases with toxicology results, 94% tested positive for fentanyl.

“It takes a very, very small amount to render someone incapacitated,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans Health Director

Many times, people who overdose on fentanyl don’t even know they’re using it.

That’s what happened to 31-year-old Houma native, Sarah Pellegrin.

“She got straight fentanyl, and I know that was not her intention. I know that she didn’t want to die that day,” said Renee Bertinot, Sarah’s mom.

Bertinot remembers her daughter Sarah as a funny, friendly woman who adored her three children.

Lilly Harvey also lost her daughter, 28-year-old Millie, to fatal fentanyl overdose.

“I was in shock, because that’s just not something that she fooled with. She received it against her knowledge. She did not know that’s what it was,” said Harvey.

Harvey describes her daughter as a fun, free-spirited young woman.

Ever since Millie’s death, Harvey has been on a mission to spread awareness.

“I needed to turn my pain into purpose,” said Harvey.

Harvey has dedicated the last five years of her life to getting the Louisiana government to pass a law with stricter punishments for dealers who sell fatally laced drugs.

This month, that bill passed the state senate.
Now, “Millie’s Law” will go to the Louisiana House of Representatives. If passed, convicted dealers who sell fatally laced drugs will serve a minimum of ten years behind bars.

So, when you’re out on the town enjoying the sights and sounds of New Orleans this festival season, beware of the silent killer, fentanyl.

It only takes one time, and your first time could be your last.