St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says the most important minute of Sunday night's Super Bowl didn't have anything to do with what went on on the field.
He says it was the locally-produced 60 second public service announcement showing the ravages of heroin.
Area leaders gathered Monday morning to lay out their plans for fighting the heroin epidemic.
“It is frankly impossible to overstate the opiate epidemic in our nation and our region, said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.
The local impact from the drug has been staggering. Since 2007, more than 2,700 people have died from overdoses in the St. Louis area, including Stenger’s nephew Mitch.
“In the year he died, he had attended the funeral of three acquaintances who had died by overdosing as well,” Stenger said.
Within feet of Mitch’s grave site are perhaps five other young people who have died from a heroin overdose.
“He was in rehab,” Said Mitch’s mother Laura. “He went through everything and- the drug, that's how powerful the drug is. He just wanted to keep using. It calls your name every day.”
Like so many others, Mitch’s path to heroin began with pain pills. The CDC says prescription opioids are the gateway drug for four out of five heroin users.
Missouri is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a prescription drug monitoring program. The absence of those regulations allows abusers to go "doctor shopping" to fill prescriptions.
Lawmakers are once again debating a statewide database, but the measure has failed time and again in the past.
“I'm very hopeful this year, as I was last year,” said State Representative Holly Rehder. “However, we do have new leadership in the House and Senate. So this has been very much a priority from the speaker. Senate leadership has said the same.”
While macro solutions are in the works, the fight continues locally. By the end of February, first responders in St. Louis County will be equipped with Narcan. The medication can be used to counteract a heroin overdose.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.