SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum shared good news on Monday about deadly overdoses investigated by his department; there was a 27% decrease from 2021 to 2022.
Nevertheless, he and Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead aren’t content.
“We’ll celebrate a decrease, but know that there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of areas we can continue to improve on,” Thum said. “So if you’re a parent listening to this message today, I want you to talk to your kids tonight. Don’t wait.”
“Locally we’ve seen an improvement, I will say, in the last year in the number of people who have died of drug overdoses,” Milstead said. “But it is still far too many. In the past year, for the year 2022, 26 people lost their lives to fatal overdoses in Minnehaha County.”
Three mothers with a common message joined Thum and Milstead at Monday morning’s police briefing at the law enforcement center in Sioux Falls: Angela Kennecke, Alicia Steinfurth and Diane Eide. Following a distinguished career as a journalist with KELOLAND News, Kennecke is now CEO of Emily’s Hope, a nonprofit which fights back against the scourge of drug overdoses. Her 21-year-old daughter Emily died of fentanyl poisoning in 2018.
“We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic,” Kennecke said. “It has to come through awareness, through education and through prevention, and Emily’s Hope is working on all of those aspects.”
Kennecke was joined today by Alicia Steinfurth of Lennox and Diane Eide of Sioux Falls. Steinfurth’s son Josh also died of fentanyl poisoning; he passed away in 2020 at the age of 23.
“One night he was with friends, and they were drinking, and they decided that let’s do something more,” Steinfurth said. “So they bought two pills which they thought were Percocet. They were 100% fentanyl, and Josh died.”
Eide’s 25-year-old son Trace Smykle died of a meth overdose in 2021.
“He had about six months’ sobriety prior to relapsing three weeks before he died,” Eide said. “He managed to get his own apartment, he had a job, he had a car, things were really looking up until he relapsed. I, Trace loved his friends, Trace loved his family, Trace liked to hang out with everybody, and everybody loved him. He will be missed every day.”
Trace, Josh and Emily are missed, and these mothers stand resolute to share their stories in hope that others survive. Tuesday is National Fentanyl Awareness Day.
“We are still seeing way too many deaths, and we have our work cut out for us,” Kennecke said.