Wake Up Calls of a Crisis: 911 calls reveal Fentanyl’s deadly reach in Kershaw County

The drug is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Wake Up Calls of a Crisis: 911 calls reveal Fentanyl’s deadly reach in Kershaw County
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 11:45 PM EDT

KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday- November 10th, 2022, the silence of small-town life in Camden was interrupted by the wake-up calls of a crisis.

At the 911 Emergency Services dispatch, the switchboard began to light up shortly after 1pm with several callers reporting overdoses.

WIS obtained the recordings of some of the 911 calls through the Freedom of Information Act, and they reveal a chilling reality.

Many of the frantic callers reported finding their loved one’s unconscious after using drugs, begging paramedics to get to the scene quickly.

Some of those using would not survive.

In all Kershaw County EMS responded to 11 overdose calls in one 24-hour period from Thursday November 10th to Friday the 11th.

4 of them were fatal. Jim Edge is the head of the paramedic unit in Kershaw County.

“About every 20 or 30 minutes during the busy time of the day, an overdose was going out. I believe every crew ran at least one- a couple crews ran 2 or three.”

The main culprit: Drugs laced with Fentanyl; a powerful opiate used to manage pain for terminal cancer patients.

The drug is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Edge says its grip on this community touches young and old.

“We’ve had at least two overdoses in the last year in this county: a 14-year-old that got into something. As well as a 19-month-old that got into something that somebody in that house had that had fentanyl in it.”

Down King Street in Camden, news of the November overdoses reached Mara Jones, the Executive Director at ALPHA Behavioral Health Center

“To have close to 19 overdoses that weekend - and then 4 of them end up in fatalities due to a bad batch of cocaine with fentanyl in it, that was devastating.”

The ALPHA Center is a behavioral health and drug rehabilitation center in Camden.

ALPHA stands for All Life’s Problems have answers. The answer to these deaths, Jones says is action.

“There is going to be a community task force initiated, utilizing some of those lawsuit opioid dollars coming in because we have got to do more to combat what is happening in our communities.”

In addition, Jones says the ALPHA Center distributes Narcan, a medication that counteracts the effects of fentanyl, no questions asked.

“An individual, when they’re using, they don’t know what other substances are going to be in the drug that they’re using. So, I tell individuals, if you have someone you love and care about, make sure you have Narcan on hand.”

But while Narcan may save a life, Edge says it also keeps the true scope of the problem hidden.

“I can’t tell you how many cases occur that we don’t even know about that day because people have Narcan at home and they might OD and their partner, friend or whatever squirts some Narcan in their nose and we don’t even get those calls.”

The other problem says Jones, is the false belief that many carry that fentanyl is someone else’s problem.

“I hate to say it, we get desensitized to it. Because we hear it so much until it’s someone that you care about.”

It’s why that weekend in November lingers with 4 deaths and nearly 20 overdoses in the span of several days.

In the face of that haunting reality, in this view from the frontlines Jones says there is still so much work to do to get this silent killer caught.

In the meantime - the fight continues to save one life at a time.

“When somebody walks into the ALPHA Center and they’re struggling they want answers then and there.” Jones said.

“Sometimes they don’t believe there’s an answer. So, the biggest thing we can offer them is hope.”

For more information about the ALPHA Center and the services they provide, click here: https://www.alphabehavioralhealthcenter.org/contact-us

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