Authorities continue search for source of drug behind downtown overdoses

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – The number of overdose cases in downtown St. Louis dropped dramatically in the last 24 hours. Thursday there were 47 cases, the busiest day of the week for emergency responders. By late Friday afternoon, there were just two cases.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said he’s not certain, but hopes the drop is due to the police investigation putting pressure on the distributor. Jenkerson said some of the victims have been to the hospital more than once this week.

“We’ve had several people who have done it two times, three times in the last week,” he said.

Even though they’ve been hospitalized?

“Yes…Unfortunately, this is a very vulnerable part of our population the homeless many of them have psychiatric issues they are easy prey right now,” Jenkerson said.

Since Monday, first responders have been called for more than 120 incidents related to synthetic opioid overdoses. The total cost would add up to well over $70,000 if the city could bill the homeless patients.

Mylowe Williams, 19, has been homeless for two years. He said he doesn’t use the drug, but has a theory as to why some homeless do.

“They feel left out. That nobody loves them; nobody cares about them,” he said.

People who live in nearby apartments and condos in the area want the problem solved.

“Don’t want kids to get involved with all that. It would be nice to get it off the street, away from people just trying to live their life,” said Brandon Hillis, a downtown resident.

The fire chief said a number of city departments, including fire, police, building and health officials, have been investigating the source. They have some leads, but Jenkerson said he would not disclose what they are for fear of hurting the investigation.

Jenkerson said the drug comes into the country in bulk from Russia and China. And even though many synthetic drugs are illegal, the maker changes the formula just a little and the new drug is not against the law.

“They stay one step ahead of the law,” Jenkerson said.

The chief said he’s proud of the men and woman on his force for working to keep the overdose victims alive.

“It’s been a tough couple of days, don’t get me wrong; they’re tired, some of the guys who went off this morning were like, ‘Oh, I need a break,’” Jenkerson said.

Homeless people said they believe the drug is sold in local stores.