ASHLAND Emergency services have seen an uptick in overdose calls over the past two to three weeks, officials said.
Boyd EMS Director Chuck Cremeans confirmed Monday there's been a prolonged upsurge in overdose calls, which he attributed to a “bad batch” consisting of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and methamphetmine. Fentanyl and carfentanil are powerful pain killers typically cut into heroin which leads to high overdose rates.
“Typically, when something new hits the streets, we'll get an uptick in calls for a couple days, maybe even a week,” Cremeans said. “This has been more prolonged than usual.”
Typically, Boyd EMS receives about 10-15 overdose calls a week, Cremeans said. Last week, they received 25 calls.
“It hits like this every once in a while, but we've had this for a week or two,” he said.
And it's fatal, according to Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond. He said over the past two to three weeks, his office has handled seven to eight fatal overdoses. On Thursday alone, two people died as a result of overdoses, Hammond said.
“It's a huge uptick,” Hammond said.
Last year, Hammond's office ruled 37 deaths as a result of drug overdoses.
The Northeast Kentucky Drug Task Force confirmed Monday that investigators are currently trying to trace the source of the batch. Due to the ongoing investigation, a task force officer could not disclose any more information.
“We’re assuming it’s fentanyl, but we do not have the toxicology reports in yet,” the task force officer said.
One Thursday death, that of a 24-year-old woman, is currently under investigation by the Ashland Police Department, court records show. Hammond said it appears she died of an opiate overdose, but the toxicology reports are still two weeks out to confirm whether or not it was fentanyl.
Chief Todd Kelley said the investigation into the death is still in the “infant stages.” While two men have been charged as a result of the investigation, no has been charged with the death itself, Kelley confirmed.
An arrest citation shows the woman died from an OD in the 2200 block of Sellars Street. When officers arrived, court records show they found a plastic bag full of methamphetamine sticking out of a hole in the wall inside the bedroom in which she was found. The homeowner, 47-year-old Michael Kent, told police he found the drugs inside a coat hanging on the wall, court records show.
Officers checked the coat and found scales with drug residue on it, according to a criminal citation. Court records show he admitted to selling drugs and had more than $100 on his persons.
Kent was arrested and charged with first-degree trafficking of methamphetamine (first offense). He was released May 15 on his own recognizance.
Through the investigation, court records show 51-year-old James Simpkins became a person of interest, but he kept dodging city detectives. Following an undercover drug transaction, a search warrant was carried out, records show. Police found heroin or fentanyl derivative, drug bags, scales, pipes, a little more than $1,000 in cash and a .40 caliber handgun, according to the citation.
Simpkins was arrested and charged with first-degree trafficking in carfentanil or fentanyl derivatives (second offense), first-degree possession of a drug (first offense), possession of a handgun by a felon and a bench warrant. He is currently being held on no bond due to the bench warrant, with $50,000 bail set for the trafficking and gun charges.
Simpkins was also wanted in Ohio on drug charges, court records show.
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