Watch CBS News

Pittsburgh first responders expect fentanyl when responding to overdoses, EMS chief says

First responders now expect fentanyl while responding to drug overdoses
First responders now expect fentanyl while responding to drug overdoses 02:36

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Fentanyl is killing Americans at an alarming rate.

Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services says Pittsburgh is in the thick of it, responding to overdose calls every day.

The rising fentanyl overdose deaths come as police search for that accused smuggler, caught with nearly 2 million dollars worth of fentanyl at a downtown bus stop.

KDKA-TV was at city court on Tuesday, but Yan Carlos Pichardo Cepeda was a no-show again.

He's the man previously released by Magistrate District Judge Xander Orenstein, caught trying to smuggle 9 kilos of fentanyl into the city of Pittsburgh.

And as police try to find him and bring him to justice, Pittsburgh EMS said they keep putting in the work.

Inside Pittsburgh EMS headquarters, they're working on ways to cut down on overdoses.

"I believe Pittsburgh is pretty much on par with the nation as far as drug overdoses," Pittsburgh EMS Chief Amera Gilchrist said. 

We're seeing the same increase here as the spike nationwide.

"We have drug overdosages every day," Gilchrist said.

Nationwide, some 70,000 adults fatally overdosed on fentanyl in 2021.

Gilchrist says first responders now expect fentanyl.

"We assume every opioid overdose is subject to having fentanyl on board, so we treat everyone the same as far as stabilizing their vitals giving the same treatment and medications they need," Gilchrist said. 

New data from the CDC shows it doesn't matter how old you are. Drug overdose deaths jumped significantly from 2020 to 2021: 35- to 44-year-olds are dying at an alarming rate.

Fentanyl-related deaths among children increased more than 30-fold between 2013 and 2021.

"It's in the schools, it's everywhere. So we have a duty actually not even just as pre-hospital care professionals but as a department of public safety as just citizens to help educate," Gilchrist said.

That's why the department's posting on social media to share resources

"With our safety alerts coming out about testing the drugs that you're taking, you know what you're putting in our body," Gilchrist said. 

The department released a list of 10 safety recommendations on its social media pages.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.