KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of deaths attributed to the opioid epidemic is skyrocketing. The Missouri health department reports opioid deaths in the Kansas City area increased by 56% in 2020.

That jump has an area sheriff’s office stepping up to educate and raise awareness about the problem.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said it’s seen 12 overdoses this year. Investigators said nine of those have been deadly. The majority are people between the ages of 15 and 25, and they’re taking pills laced with fentanyl.

“They’re readily prevalent on the streets. Once you take one supplier out, someone else is gonna come in and fill the void,” Sgt. Gary Blackwell, Clay County Sheriff’s office, said during a briefing provided by the University of Kansas Health System.

The sheriff’s office expects the drug problem to get even worse because they said they can’t find and arrest dealers as quickly as dealers are supplying the drugs. At one point they were worried about heroin, but said opioids, like Percocet, are easier to get and cheaper to make, leading to a larger profit.

“The high level dealers are paying $8 a piece for these and the average price on the street is $30. So we’re talking a $22 profit per tablet. So someone’s going to step in to fill that void,” Blackwell said.

Last week the Clay County Sheriff’s Office held an education summit to talk about what its seeing. During the meeting, investigators said you are 2.5 times more likely to die taking a counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl than playing Russian roulette.

Blackwell said he knows one person who was “Narcanned” five times in the week before officers actually arrested him. That means the guy overdosed five times, and emergency responders gave him Narcan to save his live five times in one week.

Blackwell said that’s not the most surprising thing he’s uncovered as he works as a drug enforcement officer.

“I’ve talked to dealers who actually when they sold these Perc-30s, if you bought so many Perc-30s then you would get Narcan with it. It’s kinda one-stop shop,” Blackwell said.

Once addicted, experts say it’s extremely difficult to break the habit and get clean.

“It’s the only substance that I’ve ever known of that, if somebody hears that a friend or somebody overdosed then they want to know who their supplier was. Not to scare away from that supplier but to actually seek out that supplier because they know that they’re selling strong Perc-30s,” Blackwell said.

The University of Kansas Health said there are treatment options available to help those trying to break their addition to opioids. That includes a newer treatment option called Sublocade.

Sublocade is a monthly injection that slowly releases medication into a person’s system to help fight opioid cravings.

A local man named Clint Adams was the first person at KU’s Addiction Treatment Center to take Sublocade.

“When you first start taking Sublocade, it’s supposed to help with any cravings you may have. I didn’t have a huge problem at all with cravings once I got on it. As time goes by, they get less and less and less. At least that’s what the hope is at least and that’s what it did for me,” Adams said.

Adams credits Sublocade with being sober for a year.