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'There is help out there' | CMPD officers are seeing more calls for overdoses, and more people dying

Charlotte has seen a 32% increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2021, according to numbers shared by CMPD.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The opioid epidemic continues to take lives in the Charlotte area. On Tuesday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said officers are seeing more calls for overdoses and more people dying.

Charlotte has seen a 32% increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2021, according to numbers shared by CMPD. Average monthly calls related to overdoses have also steadily increased in the last two years.

Facing a shortage of police officers, CMPD Lt. Shawn Mitchell with the Special Investigations Unit said the police department is short-staffed and the DA’s office, dealing with caseloads built up during the pandemic, prioritizes prosecuting crimes of violence over to drug-related crimes. 

“I think there is some frustrations that we could do a better job if we had more resources," Lt. Mitchell said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, CMPD and its partners sounded an alarm.

“This is a call to action," Mary Ward with the McLeod Center said. "What people are purchasing on the streets is not what [they] think it is."

CMPD is looking for solutions to a problem that’s getting worse.

“People are purchasing these on the street illegally of course," Lt. Mitchell said. "They are not quality controlled by any means.”

It’s adding QR codes to all CMPD business cards linking to resources. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also has a campaign called One Pill Can Kill – providing information about the deadly pills selling on the streets.

“The time is now to take this seriously because it’s showing up in deadly cases in all across America and we’re no different," Ward said. 

There are people in the community trying to find solutions to the problem. Delois Carpenter is the executive director of House of Pearls, a free, one-year recovery program for women.

Carpenter said she was born to parents who are addicted, and later in life, her son spent his 20s fighting a pill and heroin addiction.

“Ignorance is bliss," Carpenter said. "And it is if you don't know what addictions like you have been blessed." 

For years, Carpenter said she struggled to find a way to help her son -- often enabling him by giving him money and allowing him to return home each time he ran away to a drug dealer's house. 

"I did everything wrong," Carpenter said. "The mom who tried to fix him and, in reality, enabled him to the point he stayed in his addiction longer than he would have, lost everything he had."

Eventually, Carpenter stopped giving her son money. It took him three tries, but he went through a recovery program and has been sober for five years.

Now she's on the front lines fighting addiction as the executive director at House of Pearls – a free, one-year recovery program for women -- to help save more lives. She said the first step is getting rid of the stigma surrounding drug addiction.

"I think education is key as it is with everything," Carpenter said. "You know, I just want people to know that there is help out there." 

House of Pearls operates in Charlotte and will soon open a second home in Lancaster. It is free to women and accepts donations.

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