Heroin use in public on the rise

First responders say addicts are shooting up in dangerous places.

ST. LOUIS - It’s a place where Casy Damous of south St. Louis likes to walk his dog.

“It’s a really good park. It's not a bad park like everybody thinks it is. Not a bad park,” he said.

But first responders said South St. Louis Square Park on Broadway is plagued with a dangerous problem. It’s one Damous has seen first hand.

“Basically, one time I came up here I saw an ambulance because they said somebody overdosed,” he said.

Authorities said heroin addicts shoot up at the park regardless of who’s around or watching. And sometimes they said they overdose.

"As soon as they get it in their hands, they can't use it fast enough,” said paramedic Tim Geiss with West County EMS and Fire.

Geiss is on the front lines of this growing epidemic every day.

"It's hitting all demographics and I think that's what's scary,” he said.

More and more, first responders are seeing heroin use and abuse creep into the public’s view all across the metro area.

"West County, mid County, South County, North County. Everybody is dealing with this problem,” Geiss said.

And experts have said the problem is being driven by the widespread availability of high-purity heroin out on the street.

"Takes that much less to become addicted," Geiss said.

He said heroin blends are so addicting today some users will take a hit immediately, regardless of their location, and sometimes there are fatal consequences.

"I think the drug takes such a grasp on them. They almost cannot wait until they get home,” Geiss said.

And it’s all happening in public places that might shock you, or even put you in danger.

"We have it in the parking lots of grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations. You see it in the car on the highway. I've run heroin overdoses where they'll be shooting up going down the street. I've had people on 270, 255, 40, Manchester Road. Everywhere. There's nowhere that's immune to it,” Geiss said.

But in one neighborhood, just off Interstate 70 in North City, they’re doing something about it.

"It goes on so much, they don't have a fear of getting caught,” said Terry Goodwin, the founder and director of Sun Ministries.

It’s a non-profit in the Hyde Park area that helps employ the once unemployable at social enterprises like the Sun Café.

"That's what I've dedicated my life to is to help people in that situation get out of that situation,” Goodwin said.

He explained that almost daily, he sees drug deals on the street and occasionally victims of heroin overdoses passed out on the ground.

His goal is to try and give them jobs and in turn, change the neighborhood’s troubled reputation.

"That drug problem has to be addressed in order for Hyde Park to be able to fully restore to what it was when it was originally built,” he said.

But even Goodwin admitted his plan isn’t strong enough to tackle the deadly drug that is more visible and powerful than ever.

"I can go offer them a job, a place to live and tell them is all I require is they get off heroin, and they'll turn me down. It's going to take the entire population of St. Louis to say enough is enough,” he said.

City officials told NewsChannel 5 they are generally aware of overdoses occurring in the area of the park. And that neighbors have organized community initiatives involving family engagement events to try and root out the problem.

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, here are list of local resources where you can find assistance:


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