LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Amid the pandemic, there is another health crisis. Advocates and police officers are seeing an alarming spike in one kind of drug overdose, with far too many people dying.
Nathan Faatz had been in the grip of other drugs for years.
“You don't see it; you don't see the forest,” Faatz said.
But when he started using fentanyl, which is so highly addictive and dangerous, he overdosed seven times, no longer caring if he lived or died.
“I thought to myself, maybe my family would be better off, if I wasn't here,” he said.
“Fentanyl, just even a little amount misused and you're in the hospital, you're flatlining,” said Jesse Quiroz, who runs the live-in rehab program The Dream House, which is located in Troy, Missouri.
“We are starting to see drug use go up tremendously, we have never had more applications, we have never had more people saying 'Can I come?' and I'd say, 'It’s another pandemic we are experiencing,” he said.
“It has more than doubled as far as the people being exposed,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Rick Harrell. He says he has also noticed the terrifying trend.
Between January and May 2021, there were 46 overdose calls, nearly twice as many as compared to the year before. Overdose deaths are also on the rise. The sheriff says crackdowns on meth and prescription pills could be one reason. (To see fentanyl overdose calls over the past six years in Lincoln County, click here)
“Any time we focus on something, it’s like playing whack-a-mole,” said Sheriff Harrell.
But he says it's also the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and a flourishing availability of fentanyl.
“What they are failing to grasp is that it may be cheaper and it may be more available, but it’s also deadlier too,” said the sheriff.
“We see a lot of it coming from the St. Louis metro area and it gets funneled out,” said an undercover detective, who spoke exclusively to News 4. “It’s everywhere, comes in all shapes and forms, and people are really good at hiding it."
But to tackle it, the department is also getting high-tech with a brand-new tracking tool for law enforcement and the public to plainly see the fentanyl hot spots.
“On some aspects, there has been a law enforcement failure somewhere, that criminals believe they can operate with impunity,” said Lincoln County Prosecutor Mike Wood.
Wood says they will concentrate on treatment for low-level offenders, but they'll throw the book at those dealing the drugs.
“We want to send a strong message that the dealers aren't welcome here,” he said.
For Faatz, there was finally a rock bottom.
“The last straw was my wife asking for a divorce, my kids not wanting to have anything to do with me,” he said.
After turning to the Dream Center, he's now totally clean.
"For somebody to go from that pit to where he is now, come on, that's hero stuff right there,” said Quiroz.
Faatz reconciled with his wife and kids, and now he mentors others struggling with addiction. But to those still using fentanyl, he says it's a fatal flaw.
“People are dying. It’s ripping families apart,” he said.
You can find more information about the Dream Center here.