KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The 2021 drug-related death report for Knox and Anderson counties show the number of people who overdosed and died in Knox County increased by 29% in 2021. The Knox County District Attorney is shedding light on how some of the drugs are coming into East Tennessee.

DA Charme Allen says her office is involved with several different drug task forces whose investigations have led to recent arrests in states like Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, and Georgia.

“We know that our drugs coming into Knoxville are not just Knox County drugs. They’re not just Tennessee drugs. They are drugs coming in from around the nation,” said Allen. “We work with prosecutors’ offices in other states to try to cut off that pipeline and have been successful with that.”

Allen says the drug overdose death task force takes cases a step further by pursuing second-degree murder charges in connection with some deadly overdoses.

Allen added that the report showed an unfortunate trend for Knox County that showed a rise in overdose deaths in 2020 after they started to decrease in recent years. Allen told us the lingering effects of the pandemic and the impacts they have on mental health are contributing factors to the increase in overdose deaths.

“We had done a pretty good job of starting to decrease those overdose death numbers here prior to the pandemic. And once that set in our overdose numbers turned and they began to climb and they’ve climbed ever since. Unfortunately, they are still climbing even though we are out of the pandemic to some degree the overdose deaths are still increasing,” said Allen.

Allen says if you or anyone you know is experiencing addiction or mental health struggles, it is important to reach out for help before it’s too late.

Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), via text message: 435748 (HELP4U), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.