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County on edge after spike in opioid deaths

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An alarming report released by the Shelby County Health Department shows there were 16 reported overdoses, five of them fatal, in a 24-hour period. The 24-hour Spike Alert was issued on Sunday. Most of those affected were men in their thirties and fifties.

Many American are affected by adverse effects of opioids. Ron Bobal is one, but he wanted to do something positive to handle the process of losing his son, Ronnie.

"I lost my son in Christmas of 2016. As a parent, you go through a lot of emotions, which I'm doing now," he explained Wednesday afternoon.

Bobal created a non-profit called A Betor Way. It's named after Ronnie, who was a street artist who went by the name Betor. The organization provides the at-risk community, who may be using heroin laced with potent Fentanyl, "with clean needles to stop the circulation of Hepatitis C, to slowdown the influx of HIV as well."

The organization also provides Narcan, which can save lives in an overdose. The kits are given away at the corner of Sycamore View and Shelby Oaks on Friday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"We understand the disease side of addiction. It's not necessarily these people are making a choice to do this over and over again until they die, they are driven to do it by something that is beyond their control," Josh Weil, with the Memphis Area Prevention Coalition, said.

"We're community outreach workers, we're looking to identify individuals, opiate users, who are either indigent or who have either exhausted all of their alcohol and drug treatment benefits," Chris Moore, with State Opioid Response, said.

Weil, Moore and others with their state and federal organizations are also at the Friday meetings and giveaways.

The Shelby County Health Department says it hasn't yet been determined what caused these suspected 5 overdoses on Sunday.

"There's no clustering in any one particular neighborhood. If I look at the map, there is close proximity to the interstate, but we have a lot of interstates here," Alisa Haushalter, director at Shelby County Health Department, said.

Numbers show, so far in 2019, there have been more suspected overdose deaths compared to this time last year. In all of 2018 there were 213 suspected deaths in Shelby County. From Jan. 1 to Aug 31 in 2018 there were 123 suspected overdose deaths. This year, in 2019, from Jan.1 to Aug. 24 (the most recent numbers available) there have been 173.

Statistics those working to battle addiction say do not have to include you.

"You're story doesn't have to end this way. There's help available," Brian Sullivan, with Turning Point, said.

For more information you can visit A Betor Way along with the Shelby County Health Department's website.

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