SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Fentanyl is taking more and more lives in Spartanburg County. 

“We’re seeing cases where people are actually dying with needles still left in their arm,” said Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger.

Clevenger’s annual report shows 18 deaths involving fentanyl in 2016, 23 in 2017, and 38 last year. 

“We’re talking about a rise in deaths but we’re also seeing a rise in our population,” said Clevenger. “Figuratively speaking, we may be within the percentage realm that we were 10 years ago but fentanyl is relatively new.”

The synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control

“Usually we’d find the patches and they were putting them in their mouths and chewing them orally and that would get in their system but now most of what we’re seeing is powder form,” said Clevenger.  

The Forrester Center for Behavioral Health in Spartanbug is one arm of the local effort to combat the overall opioid problem. 

“If you are buying opiates, pills, or other drugs off the street, you don’t know. You don’t know what might be laced in that,” said Susan O’Brien, CEO of the Forrester Center for Behavioral Health. 

They’re a community distribution site for narcan, offer help getting rid of pills, and work to spread awareness.

“People come in, they can get the medicines that can help the withdrawal,” said O’Brien. “To give them that medical intervention and then of course the therapy that comes with it.”

She said if people have insurance they can get covered for treatment.

But if they don’t, the center has funding that can help those folks too.

She said peer recovery coaches, who have battled various addictions themselves and are in long term recovery, are embedded in the Spartanburg Medical Center emergency room.

“When folks come in with opiate use disorder they can really have a heart to heart conversation. If that person wants to start on a medical protocol, they get their first induction in the hospital so they’re not leaving with that withdrawal,” said O’Brien. 

Clevenger said there’s also legislation on the state level to punish drug dealers who supply fentanyl.

“The people that are dying from this are usually suffering from an addiction and an addiction is not something that we should shun,” said Clevenger.  

Clevenger said he’s going to Atlanta for a national conference next week that’s focused on the opioid crisis.

Read more about The Forrester Center here