In February, Lisa Hicks prepared for a new life milestone with the approaching arrival of grandson Joseph Gabriel Patterson.
“Six months ago, I was looking forward to being a grandma, and my life has significantly changed since then,” she said.
The newborn came after the death of his 23-year-old father, Joseph Edward Patterson, from a fentanyl overdose that month. Authorities found the Winder man lying on the floor of a Gainesville residence Feb. 16.
“He had his whole life planned out, and he had a lot of potential in doing good in everything in his life,” Hicks said.
Gainesville Police investigators said they believe Patterson ingested the drug while under the impression it was a different prescription medication.
Hicks is starting a petition and is working to have a bill drafted to create harsher punishments for manufacturers of Schedule II drugs — which can be dangerous — to look like a different drug.
“(What) we would also like is that if an individual or group is caught manufacturing or distributing fentanyl or a Schedule II substance ... that they are also charged with an assault or a violent charge,” Hicks said of prospective legislation to be called “Joe’s Law.” “You know it’s dangerous, but you’re intending to hurt somebody with it.”
Casey Aaron Trichel, 24, of Winder, was indicted July 22 in alleged connection to Patterson’s death and charged with felony murder. At Trichel’s committal hearing, investigator Glenn Ewing testified that the drug was stamped to look like oxycodone.
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued an alert in March regarding the risks of fentanyl.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a March news release. “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl
analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.”
In 2014, state and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl-related seizures, an increase from 2013’s 942 reports, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.
Hicks also would like to create a provision that would require people who witness people in trouble to be required to call 911 and emergency services.
“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to pick up the phone and call 911, especially in this day and age,” Hicks said.
Hicks and her husband, Julian Ellis, have taken care of baby Joseph Gabriel Patterson for the past three months. She said she intends to teach the child who his father was, a health nut who did not partake in drugs.
“The closest thing he’ll ever be able to come to seeing his father will be the memorial we have set up at our house, which has Joe’s remains in an urn with all of his pictures and stuff like that,” Hicks said.