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“Shocking” images paint picture of a growing drug crisis across East Tennessee | Now what?

KARM CEO snaps photos of drug users passed out on public sidewalks in Knoxville as the county is on track to have the most drug-related deaths in more than five years.
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knox Area Recue Ministries CEO, Burt Rosen, captured images of drug users passed out on public sidewalks in Knoxville as Knox County is on track to have the most drug-related deaths in more than five years.

“There was a man and a woman standing next to each other and just as I was approaching a man was injecting a needle into the neck of a female and then she did the same thing to him,” Rosen said.

The Knox County DA’s office is reporting more than 300 suspected overdose deaths already this year. Those bodies are sent to Knox County Regional Forensics Center for autopsies.

“For several years, we were starting to go downward in the number of drug related deaths, but since last spring, the drug epidemic has just skyrocketed. We’re ready to see that wave turn,” said Chris Thomas. “We continue to see overdose deaths, day after day after day.”

The rising number has pushed Rosen to search for solutions.

“I just reached a point to where I just said I can’t watch this anymore,” Rosen said.

Rosen told WVLT News KARM is working with area business leaders to start a new program that would give people a place to live, work and offer free storage space. He said the group learned people would not come to their facility to work fearful of going back to the streets or losing their personal items.

“Then, they go back to that local service again because they know their possessions are secure. We believe we can start chunking off one person at a time,” Rosen said.

The program is expected to start as soon as funding becomes available.

The forensic center’s administrator said at one point, they ran out of space and employees continue to work overtime to keep up with the overload.

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