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Knox County Sees First Suspected Opioid Overdose Death of 2020 on Day 3 of the New Year

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County ended 2019 with a dip in the number of deadly opioid overdoses, but the first suspected overdose of 2020 has come just three days into the new year.

The District Attorney’s Office has been tracking suspected overdose deaths since 2017.

Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen believes the decline comes down to Naloxone but she says addiction is still an issue.

“Every single overdose death represents a human being, a person who had a mom, a dad and oftentimes children,” Allen said.

The number of suspected overdose deaths in Knox County went down by about 50 in 2019.

  • 2019: 241 suspected overdose deaths

  • 2018: 294 suspected overdose deaths

  • 2017: 293 suspected overdose deaths

More: 2018 Fatal Overdose Victims and the Criminal Justice System Report

“They’re staggering numbers if you really sit down and look at them,” Allen said.

She says first responders are deploying a great deal of Naloxone.

“We are currently saving about four people a day, which is just over 1,400 saves a year,” Allen said. “So, in addition to those 240 deaths that we had last year, we also had about 1,400 folks that overdosed and would have died but for the deployment of Naloxone.

“The problem is once we save folks, we need to make sure that we somehow get those people into treatment, get them into recovery because saving folks is not the ultimate answer.”

Allen says this is a tough problem to address and part of her office’s response is the Overdose Death Task Force which investigates an overdose death as a homicide.

“And if we can do a good job of cutting the supply of the illegal opiates and make it harder and less accessible, then I think that we’ll see some progress in the addiction issue from our standpoint,” Allen said.

For 2020 she says the goal is being proactive and working with partners.

“The ultimate goal would be to not lose one single individual to an overdose in Knox County.”

People have been charged with second-degree homicide for supplying the drugs that led to some of those deaths when it comes to fatal overdoses according to the Knox County District Attorney’s Office.

Allen pointed out that over the last few months her office has expanded its Overdose Death Task Force to the region as a way to help attack the opioid epidemic.

She also highlighted the All 4 Knox initiative, which is a partnership with the city of Knoxville and Knox County where leaders are coming up with a three-year plan addressing how to reduce substance misuse in the community.

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