DEA training agencies to investigate overdose deaths in hopes of reigning in crisis

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – The fight against the fentanyl crisis in the Metro is gaining momentum.

News 4 is investigating the steps being taken to save lives in the St. Louis area. Federal, state and local authorities are working together to stem the deadly wave of drugs in the region.

DEA Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis Division, Michael Davis, says there were 1,030 overdose deaths in the St. Louis subway in 2021 and fentanyl played a major role in these deaths. A News 4 analysis of data from the St. Louis City Medical Examiner’s Office showed that 80% of overdose deaths in the city over the past four years involved fentanyl.

“With fentanyl, if you ingest any type of illicit drug, you’re gambling with your life,” says Special Agent Davis.

Special Agent Davis says the DEA trains 200 different state, county and local law enforcement agencies on how to investigate overdose deaths.

“We’re going to train them on how to investigate overdose deaths so we can hold these people accountable,” Special Agent Davis said.

The Missouri Institute of Mental Health Addiction Science Team tracks the number of fentanyl overdoses in the city and county of St. Louis. Director Rachel Winograd says there are gaps in the populations with the highest overdose death rates in the city.

“Black men in the city of St. Louis in particular, their overdose death rate is 15 times the national average,” Winograd says. “When you look statewide, black males are more than four times more likely to die from an opioid overdose in our state than when you look at our total population average.”

This data on the number of fentanyl overdoses comes from the Missouri Institute of Mental Health:

City of St. Louis 2021 First semester 2022
black female 65 28
black male 183 90
white female 30 23
white male 92 43
St. Louis County 2021 First semester 2022
black female 36 19
black male 110 45
white female 47 22
white male 124 40

When it comes to preventing more deaths, Winograd says the first short-term step is to implement harm reduction strategies.

“Saturate our communities with the overdose antidote,” says Winograd. “Fentanyl test strips to see what people are putting in their bodies. More sophisticated drug testing should be on the horizon, but we need legal action.

Winograd says that in the long term, the focus should be on creating a safe place in society.

“Access to affordable housing, safe housing, in areas where people want to stay and live,” Winograd says.

By training other law enforcement agencies on how to investigate these deaths, Special Agent Davis says it will help hold people accountable.

“Who are delivering this lethal dose to victims in the St. Louis metro area,” Special Agent Davis said.

The DEA focuses on community outreach, educating people on the subway about the dangers of fentanyl.

News 4’s team of reporters delved into the fentanyl crisis, which has killed thousands in the St. Louis area.

You can watch “Contaminated: The Fentanyl Crisis in St. Louis” and read the stories of those who experienced it here.

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