More people in Shelby County are dying from drug overdoses than COVID-19, officials say

Watch: More people in Shelby County are dying from drug overdoses than COVID-19, officials say

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — More people have died from recent fatal drug overdoses than have lost their lives to COVID-19, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

To help control this recent outbreak of overdoses, the Shelby County Health Department set up community outreach sites to help reach addicts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Law enforcement is looking to catch the people who sold the drugs. Health officials are concerned with helping people at risk by convincing them to get treatment.

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The View is an area off Sycamore View Rd. and Shelby Oaks Dr. frequented by drug users and the homeless. A Memphis Fire fighter set photos of a nearby drainage ditch to FOX13 back in March. They show the remnants of a homeless camp and used syringes.

The ditch is close to where the Street Team for Overdose Prevention or STOP pitched a tent to reach out to addicts. Recovering drug user Ryan told FOX13 this is necessary.

“Man, people are dying left and right every day, several times a day from a heroin overdose and it is not going away,” he said.

Public Health experts are concerned about the recent 102 fatal overdoses in just over a month. It’s more deaths than from COVID-19 in Shelby County.

“This is an ongoing issue that we have and because of the isolation is why we saw this rise,” Ron Bobal with A Better Way told FOX13.

At the tent, volunteers talked to addicts about treatment, handed out Narcan, and exchanged dirty needles for clean ones.

“They have further health complications like endocarditis from using these dirty needles that can sometimes lead to death,” Bobal said.

As health care officials hope to treat the addict, local and federal prosecutors are working to find who sold the drugs.

“In the state of Tennessee, it is a second-degree murder. These cases are very difficult to prove, very difficult to charge but we have had some success doing that,” Special Assistant to the US Attorney Western TN Joseph Griffith told FOX13.

The Health Department said it plans to hold more of the events, every day until Saturday.

Organizers with STOP believe this can save lives.