(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph's overdose problem is now too big for just one agency to solve.
A lethal opioid, Fentanyl, is taking over the streets of St. Joseph and now the city council's agenda. Monday, city council held a special work session in light of the alarming spike in opioid overdoses. Buchanan County EMS reported nearly 150 overdoses so far this year, killing five people.
According to BEMS, there were 63 overdoses in March alone which doubled the amount seen the same month last year.
It's a problem so complex over 10 area agencies have to come together to try and solve.
“The idea is to get everybody to talk to one another. The health department does have an opioid task force that a lot of these people are involved in, they haven't met due to COVID so this is a great opportunity to start meeting again and effect a solution,” said St. Joseph Mayor, Bill McMurray.
While the opioid meeting could become more regular, the man spearheading the city's opioid movement said this has been a problem since the beginning of this year.
Mark Puckett, head of St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing said, “Wish we could’ve gotten to it sooner, but it’s better late than never... We should be in emergency mode right now.”
The St. Joseph Health Department citing the Kansas City DEA Northland Task Force for blaming Fentanyl for the rash of overdoses in St. Joseph. Specifically, placing responsibility on counterfeit oxycodone, commonly known as blue pills, and powder heroin laced with Fentanyl.
These new found opioids are keeping Buchanan County's drug strike force busy. Capt. Shawn Collie, Commander for the drug strike force said, “You know, even going down to Marijuana is being laced with Fentanyl.”
Capt. Collie reports the drug strike force has seized what's believed to be Fentanyl, but they're awaiting a confirmed lab report which could take upwards of six months to receive. On top of the waiting game, the force is faced with limited demographic information on users/patients as area hospitals report providing generic age, sex and city location is a HIPAA violation.
“For us, we don’t get a lot of feedback from the health side of things, the medical fields. Unless it’s an overdose death, unfortunately, is the only time that we’re seeing the actual results or the information on that and a lot of times, even with an overdose death, it’s not a quick turn around,” said Capt. Collie.
Ahead of the special work session, Puckett said he hopes the meeting results in real change. He said he won't stop fighting until progress is made in St. Joseph.
“It can’t be smoke and mirrors. We have to come together and figure out a way to get a detox center in St. Joe. We have to figure out how to fund it, get it open and get it running because that’s the only way we’re gonna make a difference,” said Puckett.
According to Puckett, there have been 15 overdoses so far in April.