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Drug overdoses in Memphis spike during virus outbreak

More than 100 people have died of drug overdoses since mid-March in Shelby County.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officials say demand for opioids such as fentanyl has surged during the new coronavirus outbreak in Tennessee's largest county, where more than 100 people have died of drug overdoses since mid-March.

The health department in Shelby County said 700 drug overdoses and 102 deaths have been reported since March 15, when the county began issuing stay-at-home orders related to the virus response. 

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter says overdose deaths have eclipsed the number of fatalities from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. 

As of Tuesday, 88 people had died from the virus in the county, which includes the city of Memphis.

May 19 - Shelby County Health Department's Street Team For Overdose Prevention

May 19 - Shelby County Health Department's S.T.O.P.

Posted by Shelby County Health Department on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

(SHELBY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE) - The Shelby County Opioid Task Force, the Shelby County Health Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, and S.T.O.P. (Street Team for Overdose Prevention) have planned a county-wide response to the recent unprecedented increase in drug overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, in our community.

The Shelby County Health Department monitors drug overdose activity in Shelby County by tracking incidents reported by first responder organizations and the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center in a database called ODMAP. ODMAP allows SCHD to collect both suspected fatal and non-fatal overdose activity, in real time across jurisdictions in Shelby County. Yesterday, the Shelby County Health Department issued a new overdose spike alert for the 33-day period from April 13, 2020 to May 15, 2020. In that period there were a total of 437 suspected overdose events, 68 of which were fatal.

“While the COVID-19 crisis is very troubling and challenging for our county, we are also still in the middle of an opioid epidemic,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “Opioid overdoses have grown dramatically over the last few years across our state. The rural areas of our state have been hard-hit, but so has Memphis and Shelby County. Unfortunately, it’s getting worse. That’s why we must all do our part to be watchful and report any signs of overdose to 911. Our first responders are prepared to provide immediate treatment, such as access to Narcan, which can reverse and overdose and save lives. Shelby County is prepared to provide supports for long-term recovery.”

“This spike in fentanyl overdoses is unprecedented, and demands an immediate multi-disciplinary response,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant. “Together with law enforcement, first responders, and our community health professionals, we are working tirelessly to identify and stop the sources of supply, punish and deter fentanyl dealers, prevent new users, refer addicts to treatment, deploy Narcan to hotspots, and save lives.”

District Attorney Amy Weirich said, “Dealers of deadly drugs have been hard at work over the last 60 days. Our friends and family members are overdosing and dying at a record pace. We can reverse this trend through reducing demand and removing suppliers from society. As prosecutors, we will continue our focus on bringing these death dealers to justice. We need the community’s help in raising awareness about the seriousness of the problem and the dangers of these drugs. A dose the size of Abraham Lincoln’s nose on a penny is enough to kill you.”
The Street Team for Overdose Prevention (STOP) will provide street-level outreach at locations around Shelby County this week, May 19-23, 2020, to address the recent spike in drug overdoses.

S.T.O.P. will provide free overdose reversal kits, including Naloxone (Narcan), treatment resources at the following locations, dates and times:

Tuesday, May 19, 2020:

  • 3360 N. Watkins Street, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • 2760 S. Perkins Road, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • 3362 S. 3rd Street, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020:

  • 1590 Sycamore View Road, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • 28 N. Claybrook Street, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • 3628 Summer Avenue, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 21, 2020:

  • 3360 N. Watkins Street, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • 2760 S. Perkins Road, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • 3362 S. 3rd Street, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Friday, May 22, 2020:

  • 1590 Sycamore View Road, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • 28 N. Claybrook Street, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • 3628 Summer Avenue, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 23, 2020:

  • 1590 Sycamore View Road, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • 28 N. Claybrook Street, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • 3628 Summer Avenue, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • 3360 N. Watkins Street, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • 2760 S. Perkins Road, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • 3362 S. 3rd Street, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

All locations will provide overdose reversal kits and treatment resources, but needle exchange services will be available at Sycamore View, Claybrook, and Summer Avenue locations only.

The Health Department shares information about suspected overdose events with partnering agencies and the Shelby County Opioid Task Force. The Shelby County Health Department maintains a webpage on its website www.shelbytnhealth.com, with information about opioids, including overdose data, which is updated each Friday.

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