KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For many families, August is a solemn month when they remember the people who died from a drug overdose. It marks International Overdose Awareness Month, culminating in a day of events and memorials on August 31.
The Knoxville Fire Department said crews respond to an overdose call around every 3 hours, on average. Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks said they can go out on calls up to 10 times per day.
"It can be just about anywhere. It can be inside of someone's home, it can be outside of someone's home, it can be on the street, on the sidewalk, in a park," he said. "It has really affected all demographics throughout the entire city. It's a very sad situation to watch — these folks in these unfortunate situations."
He said they plan to share statistics surrounding overdoses in hopes that it would reveal more about what the community is facing and how much impact drug overdoses can have.
Wilbanks said he and his team knows that addiction is a disease and that it can affect anyone.
"It is important to know that there's help out there and folks should try to seek help through the local community, or through the clergy. There are many different ways you can seek help," he said.
Every August, a display is set up by the Drug Overdose Support Group as a reminder of how many people die due to drug overdoses in Knox County.
As of August 9, the Knox County District Attorney General's Office had reported nine suspected drug overdose deaths. That brings the total lives lost in 2022 to 288 so far.
Last year, 498 people died from suspected drug overdoses in Knox County. That's more lives lost than ever before.
Mayor Indya Kincannon said there would be an event with the Metro Drug Coalition on National Drug Overdose Awareness Day, held on August 31. It will be on Volunteer Landing. That group said they are still looking for volunteers to help with the event.
Anyone who wants to help set up the event should reach out to organizers through email at firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name and phone number.