TBI establishes new task force to combat rise in opioid-related overdose deaths

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TBI task force overdoses

There have been 128 overdose deaths so far in Davidson County this year — and that number is only expected to climb. 

Of those deaths, 67 were caused by fentanyl, a drug so deadly only a grain can kill you. Officials blamed another 30 deaths on heroin, and the final 31 caused by cocaine. 

The staggering statistics continue. In the past five days, there have been 10 fatal overdoses in the Nashville area. 

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the rise in overdoses is also creating an increase in demand for their crime lab. 

The TBI is anticipating more than 13,000 submissions into that lab. There were 888 submitted cases last year, which was a 36% increase from 2017. 

This epidemic isn’t just impacting the people you see on the streets and the people on the news. It’s impacting most people, including TBI Director David Rausch. 

“I have family members who have overdosed,” Rausch said. “Coming from it, from a person-level, I will tell you, it scares me to death. It worries me and it worries me because we’re waiting for that phone call.”

In Tennessee, more than 1,700 people overdosed and died in 2017. The TBI is still waiting on the numbers for 2018 but told News 2 it is expected to be higher, which is why the agency is launching an “Overdose Death Investigative Task Force” in Middle, West and East Tennessee. 

This will be a collaborative effort between TBI, federal partners and local agencies. Officials said there’s been a lot of success with the pilot program in Knoxville.

Three things that they hope to accomplish are stopping drugs from coming into Tennessee, connecting addicts to resources and holding drug traffickers accountable for their crimes.

“We hope to see those who are dealing these drugs are going to prison for the crime they’ve committed, and that is homicide,” Rausch said. 

According to Rausch, the number of people dying from overdoses is horrifying, and the people who are selling these drugs are just as guilty as the ones taking them.

 “They will tell you they just sold some drugs to an addict — that’s the way they see it, they see it as a transaction,” he explained. “They don’t see it as it really is: They provided the bullet that killed the person. It is no different from pulling a gun out and pulling the trigger.”

This new task force is estimated to cost approx. $500,000, which will be funded by the state. Rausch said it should be up and running in a couple of weeks.

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