AUSTIN, Texas - Between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. Friday, Austin-Travis County EMS crews responded to seven separate drug overdose incidents in the 6th Street entertainment district. Twelve people were taken to the hospital, and two died on scene.
"Most of these patients that we encountered were exhibiting signs and symptoms of opioid overdoses, but there were some that had other signs that were not consistent with opioid overdoses," said Capt. Darren Noak, Austin-Travis County EMS.
Police and ATCEMS believe the problem is fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, similar to heroin, but much cheaper.
"It can be in pill, powder, patch, solid or liquid form and can be extremely lethal in small doses," said Sgt. Tracy Gerrish, Austin Police Department Homicide Unit.
Captain Noak said the largest incident was at Fifth and Trinity Streets.
"That comprised of eight total patients. Six were transported to the hospital, one left the scene, and we also had another deceased on scene pronouncement," said Noak.
Austin police are concerned about a disturbing trend. Gerrish said in 2019 they faced 162 overdoses, that number increased to 170 last year, and this year has already hit at least 25.
Gerrish believes a lot of the supply is coming past the border and into communities quickly.
"We're definitely seeing a lot more overdoses and there is a fentanyl crisis right now," she said.
Gerrish also believes the incidents Thursday night were attributed to a certain batch of drugs that made their way to Sixth Street. With SXSW approaching fast, police will be out downtown in full force.
"The police response is going to be to flood the downtown area with narcotics officers, undercover officers who are going to target dealers," she said.
Authorities are asking the public to remain vigilant.
"Stay away from the use of street and illegal drugs. You never know what those drugs will contain, and it could cost you your life," said Noak.
Police could not give specifics on the victims, but did say that the two who died were homeless. All parties involved were adults.
APD: 2 dead following multiple overdoses on 6th Street