St. Louis police said they made three arrests in connection to the dozens of drug overdoses near a downtown St. Louis homeless shelter.
In the last three days, there have been nearly 70 drug overdoses traced back to synthetic drugs, 11 of them on Wednesday morning, then another 17 more Thursday morning.
Seventeen of those who have overdosed are being treated at St. Louis area hospitals. Many overdoses happened near 13th, 14th and Locust streets downtown.
According to STLFD Captain Garon Mosby, overdoses caused by synthetic drugs cannot be treated with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Synthetic marijuana, better known as K2, can cause hallucinations and hypertherma, which is a high body temperature. It can cause the user to experience seizures and become combative.
The overdoses are mainly affecting the homeless who reside at Larry Rice's New Life Evangelistic Center. Today, Rice held a news conference to discuss the problem.
"What you have is you've got a lot of homeless people all in one place," he said. "They're being preyed upon, they've had bleach thrown on them last week, they've had bad drugs passed out to them here, selling these cigarettes at a dollar a piece or less, people that are very desperate and feel that they have no alternative are smoking this stuff."
City spokesperson Maggie Crane said synthetic drugs are to blame in the majority of these cases and says the overdoses have been taxing on city resources.
Three arrests have been made, and police are continuing to investigate the source of these substances. The three men were released pending the application of warrants.
In the meantime, the New Life Evangelistic Center is also coming under fire.
The homeless shelter is currently operating without an occupancy permit, and has had issues with overcrowding and bed bugs.
Yesterday the city issued a cease and desist letter to Larry Rice. He has 30 days to respond.
After that, it's possible the NLEC could be shut down for good.