KNOXVILLE, TN - Besides responding to burglaries, car accidents and other typical disturbance calls, Knoxville Police Officers are responding to more and more overdose calls not only to investigate but also to save lives.
"It seems like it just started almost overnight, just tons of them all of a sudden," said Sergeant Brian Bumpus about the opioid epidemic happening in the community.
Bumpus has responded and been on scene for nearly 50 overdose calls, most of which have occurred within the past two years.
"It’s probably the biggest drug related issue that I’ve seen," Bumpus emphasized.
Earlier that day, Knoxville Police responded to an overdose call for a 34-year-old female who possibly overdosed on heroin. According to the caller, she was barely breathing and her lips were purple.
Several hours later, Bumpus responded to another call in the Western Heights neighborhood for a suspected overdose.
"That’s at least the third overdose call that we’ve had so far, in 6 hours," Bumpus said.
When officers arrived, the patient admitted to shooting up with heroin.
The patient was barely conscious and had trouble breathing. He admitted he bought the heroin on the "southside" and officers gathered all his information to investigate the call.
"Do you have any other needles on you?" Bumpus asked.
A witness nearby says he was left by another man.
"Dude was like this in the van barely breathing, he was pale as he could be and so I pulled his head up like this to try and wake him up and he wouldn't wake up," an unidentified witness told Bumpus and the other officers.
Once first responders got the patient into the ambulance, they administered Naloxone to reverse the overdose effects.
"He said he's overdosed twice before," Bumpus said.
Another Knoxville Police Sergeant told the patient it's time to make a change.
"I'm going to need you to get off that crap. Next time that Narcan isn't going to be there, you know what I'm saying? Alright, good luck," said the sergeant.
"We get these same calls at these same addresses," said Sergeant Sam Henard, another KPD officer on the evening shift. "This year I've seen it more than probably any other narcotic that we are used to seeing out on the street."
Henard hopes others are troubled by the recent numbers.
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By the end of this year, Knox County is on track for 300 suspected overdose deaths, in comparison to 221 last year.
As of July 13, there have been 178 deaths so far in 2017 with 14 happening in July.
"It's heartbreaking to see the families that are being broke up because of this epidemic," Sgt. Henard said.
Every patrol officer is armed with the life saving drug Naloxone, or Narcan, to hopefully save lives.
Since carrying Naloxone in 2015, KPD officers have administered the drug 95 times, saving 95 lives. They've administered the drug 52 times in 2017, showing a dramatic increase.
"It's amazing how quickly something so dire can be reversed if you have the ability to do that," Sgt. Bumpus added.
The epidemic for these officers is heartbreaking, especially for a city that is determined to find hope and provide help.
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