For millions of people, overdose deaths are just statistics. For many families, those numbers equal the loss of a loved one. State, local and federal authorities say we are in the middle of an opioid crisis. Victims can be from any background or can be any age.
Ahead of our KELOLAND News Special Report Monday evening, we’re talking with the people on the front lines trying to get a handle on this growing trend.
Nearly 20 people have died from opioid overdoses this year in Minnehaha County alone.
“It’s a very dark thing our nation is dealing with right now. I think there’s a lot of people struggling. There’s an oversupply of opioids in our nation right now,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.
Sheriff Milstead fears opioid abuse is only going to get worse, and he’s most concerned about more people using fentanyl.
“It’s so potent and so deadly. Those who use it, they’re not trying to kill themselves. If they’re off by just a grain of salt, it’s the difference between life and death,” Milstead said.
It begs the question: Where is all of the fentanyl coming from? There are at least two sources. One source is drug cartels.
“It’s a very sophisticated business. You’re talking about financiers, distribution networks that are rival corporations. A lot of what you see in film is really not fiction at all when you’re talking about the sophistication of drug cartels,” Ron Parsons, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, said.
Most fentanyl is shipped to the U.S. from China through the mail, which can make it hard for law enforcement to find. However, Parsons says investigators are working with the postal service to intercept these deadly packages before they reach someone.
“I am hopeful we have gotten ahead of this in South Dakota. And we’re getting a handle on it now,” Parsons said.
Milstead hopes these efforts continue to help before another person gets added to the growing statistics of opioid overdoses.
“Even if all the stars align, people don’t survive sometimes. They just can’t stop the habit,” Milstead said.