What to Know
A 1-year-old girl who was found unconscious in her Staten Island home in March died of an overdose, according to the medical examiner
Bianca Abdul was known to the city's Administration for Children's Services amid allegations of drug abuse and violence
A recent study found opioids are among the leading cause of poisoning deaths in children under the age of 9
A 14-month-old Staten Island girl who died at her home this spring and who was known to the city's Administration for Children's Services died from an opioid overdose, the city medical examiner told the I-Team.
Bianca Abdul's mother said she found her lifeless in her crib on the morning of March 20. Her aunt, Linda Fleschner, says she tried to revive her, but wasn't able to.
"I just know that the baby was cold and wasn’t breathing," Fleschner said. "I was trying to give her CPR."
Seven months after little Bianca’s death, the city medical examiner’s office told the I-Team they have concluded that she died of acute intoxication caused by the combined effects of morphine and diazepam, the generic name for the anti-anxiety drug Valium.
The death underscores a troubling reality — the opioid epidemic has been claiming the lives of addicted Staten Islanders in record numbers, but it has also been killing children who ingest the drugs of adults.
Bianca’s death was ruled a homicide, though it’s still unclear if her poisoning was accidental and whether the district attorney will file charges.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said he’s unable to speak about specific cases under investigation, but he made clear he suspects Bianca is not the only baby in his borough who died this way.
“We have a few cases under investigation,” he said. “We’ve had cases involving death and we have cases where children have survived. There have been a handful of cases, enough that we have been very alarmed by this and see this as another terrible manifestation of the crisis that we face here on Staten Island. It’s an all-out battle.”
Before Bianca’s death, her home had been on the radar of the Administration for Children’s Services amid allegations of drug use, violence and neglect in the home. According to sources familiar with the case, at least three complaints about child abuse were filed between 2015 and 2016. The sources said a 12-year-old was removed from the home in the past, but later returned.
The new ACS commissioner, David Hansell, took over just weeks before Bianca’s death.
“This was a tragic fatality, as all fatalities are, and we’re continuing to investigate it along with the NYPD, but we think the most important thing to do is to prevent these cases from happening in the future,” Hansell said. “We think the best way to do that is to educate parents.”
In September, the I-Team sat in as Hansell launched a new training for ACS workers on how to find medication red flags in children’s homes and help parents store their drugs safely.
Hansell said the trainings cover things like keeping young kids from gaining access to medications and accurately labeling and disposing of those medications.
A recent study by the city found that opioids are among the leading cause of poisoning deaths in children under age 9.
The city Health Department confirmed eleven accidental overdose deaths in children in their last three years of data from 2014 to 2016.
In 2014, there were 19 drug-related emergency visits involving children, according to the city's Health Department. In 2015, that number dropped to 12, but then jumped up to 22 in 2016.