KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For the month of August, law enforcement vehicles in Knox County and at the University of Tennessee will display purple ribbons in order to raise awareness about overdose deaths.
August is Overdose Awareness Month. Law enforcement agencies including the Knoxville Police Department will be displaying the purple ribbons provided by the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office, whose Drug Overdose Support Group is leading the initiative.
KPD Chief Paul Noel accepted the ribbons from Allen and the Overdose Support Group last week.
“These ribbons will be placed on KPD patrol cruisers throughout August to call attention to the growing and alarming rate of drug overdoses locally and nationally,” Noel said in a tweet.
The awareness campaign comes as Knox County officials report climbing suspected overdose deaths. The Knox County District Attorney General’s Office hosts an online data dashboard of suspected overdose deaths. The data is provided by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center.
In July, Knox County reported 49 suspected overdose deaths. So far this year as of Aug. 1, there have been 280 suspected overdose deaths reported by the forensic center. A year ago, July 2021 saw 33 overdose deaths and the total reported overdose deaths for all of 2021 was nearly 500.
In May, District Attorney General Charme Allen said 2021 was “challenging in many ways” after a 2021 Year in Review report was released detailing crime and trial case data; Allen told WATE 6 On Your Side that there was a dramatic increase in homicide and drug overdose deaths, county-wide.
An Overdose Fatality Review task force has been formed and is working with the county to help bring the numbers down with a focus on mental health. Allen said in June that Allen says the task force essentially takes some overdose death cases further by pursuing second-degree murder charges in connection with the fatal overdoses.
The University of Tennessee Police Department will also be putting the purple ribbons on its vehicles for August, aiming to call attention to the rise in drug overdoses in Knox County. The city and county have put together a website, All4Knox.org, with resources for people facing addiction or who have loved ones affected. Visit the link here.