NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The opioid crisis is no stranger to Nashville, but now, new data from the Metro Health Department reveals how severe the deadly trend is.
It’s a reality that hits close to home for millions. In Nashville, community members, law enforcement, and city leaders are not only taking notice but also looking at taking action.
“The deaths are going up at an astronomical rate,” said Councilmember Jeff Syracuse.
Back in August, Syracuse was appointed as chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee. Since then, as part of his new role, he is focusing on the opioid epidemic.
“It’s quite alarming when we see the numbers rise,” Syracuse said. “You’re taking your life in your hands when you don’t know where these drugs are coming from.”
According to the Metro Nashville Health Department, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, more people have died from a suspected fatal overdose. That’s in Nashville alone.
“It’s worrisome, it’s worrisome that the numbers are going up at such a rate, that we’re now really working to be successfully reactive. Ideally, you would like to change this to be more of a pro-active and educational thing, but right now we have to channel our resources to being re-active very quickly and strongly,” explained Syracuse.
Since March 1, 2020, there have been 1,746 deaths from suspected drug overdoses.
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“We’ve got to attack this in a robust way and so if we can get these test strips out to folks so they can make sure what they’re using is not going to kill them on site because we know that fentanyl can do that,” said Syracuse talking about fentanyl test strips.
Test strips are some of the most sought-after tools in the fight against drugs, specifically fentanyl.
“You cannot save someone who’s not alive,” said Anthony Jackson, the Director of Prevention in the Division of Substance Abuse Services. “Fentanyl test strips, they are cheap, easy tool for people who are in active addiction”
This year, state legislatures passed a bill, that allows for fentanyl test kits to be deemed legal. However, many non-profit and local organizations don’t have them, as they wait for funding to purchase them.
“The data shows us that if fentanyl test strips are used. Seventy percent of the time, people will adjust their behavior. They might not use, and if they do, they’ll have Naloxone there,” explained Jackson.