Opioid crisis grips the Heartland

Behind-the-scenes with Poplar Bluff police as they fight the war on drugs

Opioid crisis in the Heartland

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - If you think drugs aren’t a problem in your community, or even your neighborhood … you might want to think again.

The opioid crisis that is gripping the nation, is also exploding here in the Heartland.

The Poplar Bluff Police Department gave Heartland News a rare, behind the scenes look at what many of us would never imagine happens on a daily basis.

We spent a Friday evening with officers who just went about doing what they would normally do during their shift. That included a high speed chase right through Poplar Bluff that ended in a wooded area.

A suspect ran into some brush after bailing from his car. A quick search revealed why, he had drugs on him and so did his passenger.

They didn't want to get caught with the meth officers found in the woman's purse.

Or, the scale she had, and the wad of cash on both of them.

Earlier that same day, another man ran from police.

An officer could be heard saying, "He's crossing 5th, running north on 5th."

They caught up with him.

The man is well known to officers as a heroin addict and dealer.

Another reality for officers, responding to opioid overdoses.

They are painful to watch, but it's what they're facing more and more these days.

In a recent case, a woman overdosed on heroin at an apartment complex.

She was lying on the kitchen floor and her body was fighting to stay alive.

Outside two people watched emergency crews work.

One of them, a woman who was nine months pregnant and clearly high on drugs.

Officers could only shake their heads at the sad reality of how addiction is destroying so many lives.

Inside the ambulance, EMT’s gave the woman who overdosed a dose of Narcan, which blocks the effects of an opioid overdose.

In moments, she was awake and talking.

Here are some statistics from Poplar Bluff and Butler County regarding opioid overdoses.

In 2016, there were 316 opioid overdoses in Poplar Bluff.

This year, there have already been 714 opioid overdoses.

According to the Butler County Coroner’s office, in 2017 there were four opioid related overdose deaths in Butler County.

This year, they have had 12 deaths with six of those happening this summer in a nine day span.

“It’s getting so bad that family members are going out and buying Narcan because they don’t know when that family member is going to overdose,” Detective Corey Mitchell said.

Another routine stop on that Friday night in Poplar Bluff turned into a drug investigation as officers immediately smelled marijuana inside a car.

The 16-year-old driver lied to officers, and said they wouldn’t find anything in her vehicle.

She and her passenger exited the vehicle while officers searched the car.

Turns out, she had a small amount of marijuana and a scale.

Officers cut her a break, this time.

They told her the case would be referred to juvenile authorities and next time things would be much different.

“I take it very seriously because I’ve got kids in this community as well,” Detective Corey Mitchell said.

Mitchell has been in law enforcement for 23 years.

His passion is getting drugs off the streets.

In July, the dangers of that passion became a reality when he and other officers executed a federal search warrant at a residence in Poplar Bluff.

“We knocked on the door, gave him several opportunities to come out of the bedroom,” Mitchell said. “Once the door opened he began shooting.”

Mitchell was hit.

“It struck me in the forearm, the right forearm which was the first shot,” Mitchell said.

He said it was the first time he had ever been shot.

The suspect was accused of being right in the middle of a heroin distribution operation.

“The drugs, it doesn’t just affect one person...you’ve got collateral damage all around you,” Mitchell said.

While opioid addictions are gripping this part of the Heartland, other drugs remain just as prominent.

On this Friday night with these officers, in the five or so hours we spent with them they took marijuana, heroin and meth off the streets.

For example, they pulled over another vehicle for a traffic violation.

Within minutes, two men, two teen girls and a baby exited the car.

In the back of the vehicle officers uncovered synthetic marijuana, a lot of cash, a gun that had the serial number ground off, and meth.

This is just a snapshot of what's happening in the Heartland.

It proves, the war on drugs is far from over.

“It’s a crisis, and it’s an epidemic,” Mitchell said. “Not just for Poplar Bluff, but for the nation as a whole.”

Officers have also been facing batches of heroin that are laced with Fentanyl.

Which is making it even more dangerous and lethal not just for the users, but to those who respond to the scene of crimes and overdoses.

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