INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Public health officials are concerned over the national drug overdose crisis, which is reportedly getting worse.

In fact, Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day, an international observation to pay respect to those who’ve been lost to drug overdoses, and the families they’ve left behind. The worldwide campaign will be observed here in the Kansas City metro.

Public health officials in Independence report opioid death totals continue to rise. That city’s latest statistics from 2021 show a 66% increase in opioid overdoses, and the problem grows as fentanyl continues to find its way into other drugs.

“I’ve heard a couple of stories today of people who’ve seen someone have an overdose,” Terrell Sage, a public health specialist with Independence Heath and Animal Services, said on Wednesday.

Sage said more people have become sympathetic to this concern as accidental overdoses continue. Health service workers also point to children who are affected by drug-related deaths, and Jackson County statistics that show one out of every five overdose deaths involve a a child below age 15.

“Some people already know about Narcan. They’ve used it before and they’re here to get more. Some people wish they’d had it when they’d seen someone struggling,” Sage said.

Sage and his fellow health workers staged a Narcan giveaway on Wednesday at one of the city’s public library branches. They’re planning three more giveaways for Thursday:

  • 9:30-11:30 a.m. – Wal-Mart 4000 S. Bolger Rd, Independence MO, 64055
  • 1-2:30 p.m. – Mid-Continent Public Library North Branch, 317 W. 24 Hwy., Independence, MO, 64050
  • 3-4:30 p.m. – Wal-Mart 3411 S. Noland Rd., Independence, MO, 64055

Jackson County legislators plan a special ceremony on the main courthouse steps in downtown Kansas City. First District Legislator Manny Abarca IV points to totals from First Call, which say African American people from Missouri rank third in the nation for potential overdose.

“That’s a problem. It’s a systemic problem that maybe we need to address across the street or in this building. Raising awareness about it, or calling attention to it is the focus of our efforts,” Abarca told FOX4.

Anyone in need of support and resources in cases that involve drug overdoses or potential concerns can contact First Call’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (816) 361-5900.