City leaders, grieving parents say fentanyl overdose crisis must be addressed

Posted at 9:04 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 15:01:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As fentanyl overdoses continue to claim the lives of more Tennesseans each year, Nashville city leaders, health experts and parents believe something has to be done.

The topic was the focus of a special called Metro Council Public Health and Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday. Council members heard representatives from the Metro Public Health Department, Metro Nashville Police Department, as well as parents who lost loved ones to drug overdoses.

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry lost her son Max to a drug overdose in 2017. As she approaches the five-year anniversary of his death, she shared the story of her heartbreak and hope.

"It has to start with treating this like the disease it is," said Barry. "Substance abuse disorder is a disease. The counterweight to recognize and fight this disease is community, and we can't do it alone and you are all part of it."

As Barry addressed the council, other parents in the audience held up pictures of the loved ones they lost to drug overdoses.

An official with the Metro Public Health Department described the situation as a "public health emergency." Statistics show that the number of overdose deaths continues to rise. In 2017, 336 people died from drug overdoses in Davidson County, and in 2021 that number jumped to 725.

A Metro Police officer said officers continue to see more drugs laced with fentanyl — which is a synthetic opioid that when mixed with other drugs increases the potency.

Officers are also doing their part to address the crisis. A Neighborhood Safety Unit has been set up in the department to investigate drug overdose deaths. Undercover officers continue to crack down on illegal drug sales in the downtown area and participate in community outreach efforts that can put people in touch with treatment resources.

"If we help get one person in treatment that is one less overdose death we need to investigate," he said..

Tanja Jacobs lost her 22-year-old son to fentanyl poisoning. She started the Romello A. Marchman Foundation in his honor with the goal of educating parents about how to protect their kids.

"There is nothing like losing a child," said Jacobs. "I do not want anyone else to go through that."

Jacobs told the council how she continues to work to spread the word about the dangers of fentanyl through social media, billboards and working with schools.