Heroin, Fentanyl overdoses concerning to northeast Tennessee officials


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - An increasing number of overdoses and drug-related deaths are causing concern among the law enforcement community. As the region works to fight the opioid epidemic, some communities are seeing a shift in drug usage. Since the beginning of the year, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Gene Perrin says there have been 13 overdose deaths in the county. "Out of the 13 deaths that I looked at, six of those are what I would describe as needle-dope types of drugs," Perrin said. Among those drugs are Heroin and Fetanyl, and Perrin said there are even more toxicology reports under review. While opioids are still a major concern across the region, the accessibility, cost, and potency of IV drugs are becoming more widespread. Perrin said, "Right now, my number one concern is trying to identify the sources of the Heroin and the Fentanyl that is coming into Sullivan County." Perrin believes addressing that problem starts right on the scene with law enforcement, first responders, and hospital staff. Identifying the drugs, he said, will help track back to a particular shipment or distributor. "What you find is overdoses typically come in groups," he said. Across the state line, Virginia State Police Lt. Jason Robinson says heroin has not become such a major problem in southwest part of the state. "We're seeing Fetanyl-laced pills more than Fentanyl-laced Heroin," Robinson said. He said drug distributors will often create counterfeit pills themselves and sell them under the guise of other prescription drugs. "Here it's almost cultural. We're on our second or third generation of people that are addicted to drugs. It's how they grew up or it's what they've learned from family, or friends or parents," Robinson said. Perrin told News 5 he and other staff are traveling to Knoxville Wednesday to discuss the procedures for working on the scene of drug overdoses.