SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Greene County coroner confirms a third death in a recent spike in drug overdoses in the last week.
The State Attorney's Office says Keauntay McNabb died of a drug overdose while in police custody. (Pixabay)
Tom Vandenberg confirms to KY3 News a woman in her 30s and two men in their 20s died from overdoses. No identities have been released. City leaders say the total number of overdoses is 40.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said authorities believe the overdoses are from drugs supplied by a low-level drug dealer in the area. Three of the recent overdoses happened inside the Greene County Jail.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says, one inmate overdosed in the jail last Thursday. Two more did so on Friday.
"If they take it right before they get arrested or if they smuggle it in somehow, which is very possible, they can OD on it also," Arnott said.
Arnott said said the one of the three overdoses inside the jail tested positive for a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
Friday, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure hinted the deadly drug might be to blame.
“All having to do, presumably with fentanyl and heroin. So you presume there was some batch that had that in them. That’s significant to have that amount," Mayor McClure said.
Arnott said the opioid overdose reversal drug saved all three inmates who overdosed.
"If it wasn't for Narcan, we would have deaths instead of people who survived it," he said.
That's why, he said, Narcan is kept on-hand in the jail, and every Greene County patrol vehicle. Arnott said, sometimes, his deputies are saving the same lives more than once.
"Maybe we save a life one time and they learn a lesson and not do it again, but that's not what we're seeing. We're seeing repeated overdoses, repeated use of Narcan," he said.
In fact, Arnott said, one of the inmates who overdosed was revived with Narcan earlier the same day, before being brought to jail.
"Narcan saves lives. All lives are precious and it saves lives," said Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson.
Even though Arnott said drug users might be making irresponsible choices, Patterson said, it would not be effective to file charges.
"What we want to do is we want to go after the source," Patterson said.
According to Arnott, the Mexican drug cartel is to blame. He and Patterson both say drug investigations can be complicated, especially when the dealer is not in the area.
"So you have to rely on interviews with those affected by the overdose, as well as other items of forensic evidence," Patterson said.
Arnott said his department has tracked down the source of the jail overdoses, but to stop this spike, they'll have to find the kingpin.
Arnott said the Greene County Sheriff's Department, Springfield police and the DEA are all working together to find the drug dealers in Springfield. Patterson said it will take vigorous prosecution of those dealers to put them behind bars, which he hopes, will eventually deter them from even trying to sell in the area.