SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Shane Gerlach has been a drug and alcohol addiction counselor for eight years. Prior to 2023, none of his clients had ever fallen victim to a fentanyl overdose death. This year, it’s happened to four of his clients.
“One of them that I lost, it was her first ever use of fentanyl,” said Gerlach, who works at the Carroll Institute in Sioux Falls. “She had never used it, and it was offered to her, and she tried it, and it took her life. One use, one use of a blue pressie took her life. Left behind a child. Three of the four that I’ve lost have left behind children. It’s devastating.”
“Pressies” are also known as “blues” because of their color. The tiny pills are highly addictive and, Gerlach says, are becoming more common in Sioux Falls. But they’re not the only threat.
“We are seeing fentanyl added to all substances in the area,” Gerlach said. “Recently a young 18-year-old girl who bought cannabis overdosed from fentanyl, so even the cannabis, even the pot is being laced with fentanyl. What I’m hearing from my clients is they don’t know what they’re taking.”
Just this month, the South Dakota Department of Health sent out a warning about fentanyl being added to an animal sedative. According to the DEA, it’s a growing threat across the country.
“Things you need to be aware of with opioids: nodding, when you see someone just nodding off,” Gerlach said. “I’ve had clients report that at their workplace, in parking lots, at gas stations, they’ll have people nodding off with their car actually moving.”
Gerlach also recommends picking up some Narcan.
“Narcan is available at all pharmacies,” he said. “It is free. It is life-saving. It is a nasal spray that you can administer to someone that you believe is having an opioid or a fentanyl attack, an overdose. It’s life-saving.”
Five simple but powerful words form a message for anyone struggling.
“There’s hope, and there’s help,” Gerlach said.
Gerlach says the Carroll Institute does assessments for walk-ins on Monday; no appointment is needed.