BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Law enforcement officers in Blount County are now equipped with packets containing information and resources related to drug overdose prevention.
The packets contain information on treatment programs and suicide prevention. They also include at-home drug disposal kits.
The goal is for Blount County Sheriff's Office deputies and Maryville, Alcoa and Townsend police officers to distribute the packets to overdose survivors and their family members as they respond to calls for service.
"I think that anytime that you can actually put something in somebody's hand and give them to reference to later, after the shock and the initial trauma is gone, that they can refer back to, I think that it'll be very useful," BSCO Deputy Chief Ron Talbott said.
Drug overdoses have been on the rise in Blount County since 2015. However, that rise has been more significant since 2020.
That year, Blount County law enforcement responded to 239 overdose calls and 38 deaths.
In 2021, those numbers nearly doubled. There were 397 calls for service and 64 deaths.
In 2022 thus far, law enforcement has responded to 110 overdose calls and 21 deaths.
The problem is not unique to Blount County. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths increased by 28.5% from 2020 to 2021.
"It's just addiction. The availability of drugs in our country now has far exceeded what anybody ever anticipated," Talbott said.
The overdose prevention packets were distributed to officers and deputies last week.
They were funded and provided by Be Aware Blount Anti-Drug Coalition and other local and state organizations.
Law enforcement in Blount County has been equipped with naloxone, also known as Narcan, since 2015. That is a tool used to reverse an opioid overdose.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, help is available.
The Tennessee REDLINE is available 24/7/365 for substance abuse referrals. Anyone can call or text 800-889-9789 for confidential referrals.