2019 overdose deaths could set new record in Sioux Falls

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Sioux Falls, S.D. - Drug overdose deaths are on the rise across the nation and numbers here at home are climbing as well.

Minnehaha County is on track to surpass the record number of overdose deaths it saw just last year.

“We’ve never seen the price as low as it is now and we've never seen the quantity as available as it is now,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said. “Those are both not good signs.”

Twenty-one people died of a drug overdose in 2017 in Minnehaha County. That number increased to 23 in 2018.

Six months into 2019 and law enforcement have already responded to 39 overdose calls and 9 of them were fatal.

Of those 39 calls Narcan was used 12 times.

“It is concerning,” Milstead said. “These drugs are not what people in my era grew up with or even people 10 years ago.”

Drugs like fentanyl which is on the rise in Sioux Falls.

“These people are not trying to kill themselves,” Milstead said. “They're so addicted that they really don’t care who put together the batch that they're utilizing.”

“Ryan died the afternoon of April 10th of 2018,” Denise Blomberg said.

Ryan Blomberg's mom Denise said Ryan was funny, intelligent, and loved doing things for other people.

But, Ryan’s addiction to drugs began when he was in high school with curiosity about marijuana.

“[He] got involved with probably what we think was a little early meth usage, but heroin was his drug of choice,” Denise said.

Denise said without many options in South Dakota, they took Ryan to a treatment facility in St. Paul Minnesota.

He transitioned to an outpatient treatment, but Ryan used to say treatment is one thing, recovery lasts a lifetime.

“Ryan thought he bought a hit of heroin that ended up being enough fentanyl to kill 5 people,” Denise said. “It was not survivable. He intended to probably mask some sort of darkness that day and didn’t intend to die.”

Denise said she doesn’t want Ryan to just be another statistic in the overdose epidemic. She wants his life to have mattered.

That’s why she speaks out about the need for treatment and prevention.

“If we label somebody, we're really doing ourselves injustice by not getting to the root cause of what’s going on,” Denise said.

“My hope is that as year’s progress that we can have success,” Milstead said. “That I don’t have to call the coroner or he doesn’t have to call me as frequently to say we've had another overdose death.”

Denise said she is thankful for the incredible strides Sioux Falls is making in what we can offer with Avera's Addiction facility opening this fall.

Sheriff Milstead said the addition of a community triage center will hopefully also make an impact in the lives of those struggling and their families.

Milstead adds they're paying close attention to our neighboring states like Minnesota.

In the past two weeks they've seen at least 175 drug overdose calls, 17 of them ended up being fatal.