(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph's war on Fentanyl is far from over and it's claiming more lives everyday.
The problem in the city is evident as overdose calls have skyrocketed over the past month.
Director of Buchanan County EMS said, “It’s a public health crisis," said Steve Groshong, "We’ve had them in stores, we’ve had them in residences, we’ve had them in the streets, we’ve had them in parks. It could be anywhere and it could be anybody.”
There are 63 confirmed overdoses this past March, doubling the amount from March 2020. BEMS released updated numbers showing an alarming increase in overdoses in the first three months of 2021. In January, four more overdoses were reported this year and in February and March, the numbers doubled compared to the same first three months of 2020.
It's a rate that's left area treatment centers feeling overwhelmed.
“It’s more than we’ve ever seen,” said Angela Anderson, Certified Peer Specialist for St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing.
Last week, head of St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing, Mark Puckett, took to social media to sound the alarm on Fentanyl in St. Joseph. The opioid Fentanyl is known to be 50-100x stronger than Heroin. That potent drug is what the treatment center is causing the spike in overdoses and resulting in a staff running out of fuel.
“He’s calling me and this person’s calling me. He’s running to this area and I’m running to that area. I’m exhausted in every sense of the word. I’m exhausted,” said Hayley Thompson, Nurse for St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing.
The area drug treatment center handed out well over 500 boxes of the life-saving medication, Narcan, over the past week in an effort to try and get the community involved in combating St. Joseph's growing battling with opioid addiction.
“Yesterday, I had a lady come by and she picked up like 110 (Narcan), now she’s completely out of the Narcan,” said Thompson.
Health experts said they don't know why Fentanyl is on the rise in the city, but they're committed to fighting it. Groshong said,"It's very stressful and very puzzling for all of us emergency services community."
Experts said area hospitals and treatment centers need to come together and form a plan to deal with the spike in overdoses head on and they need to do it fast or things will get much worse.
“Our community is going to suffer and we’re going to continue to have more people die,” said Thompson.
Those dedicating their lives to saving others from drug addiction said the problem stems far deeper than what's on the streets. They said it's the stigma surrounding addiction making it harder to fight. Thompson said,“We have people that come in and overdose on it and they’re released from the hospital and they use it again. They’re just sick. It’s not that they’re stupid or worthless, they’re sick. They’re physically addicted to it.”
Friday at 6 p.m., St. Kolbe-Puckett will hold another community outreach event at the Civic Center Park to discuss the spike in overdoses.