Emily’s Hope Continues Fight Against Drug Epidemic as Minnehaha County Records 26 Drug Overdose Deaths in 2022

CEO and Founder of Emily's Hope, Angela Kennecke with Alicia Steinfurth and Diane Eide

Minnehaha County, SD – The devastating impact of the overdose epidemic continues to ravage the nation, with Minnehaha County being no exception. In 2022, a total of 26 individuals died from drug overdose, 18 of them were males and 8 were females. The average age of the deceased was 38, with the youngest victim only 21 years old and the oldest 58. Out of these 26 deaths, 6 were attributed to fentanyl, 2 to a meth/fentanyl combo, and 10 to meth alone. The situation demands attention, awareness, and action to combat this growing epidemic. However, overdose deaths are down more than 20 percent year-over-year in the City. 

“It’s fascinating, and it’s encouraging that the fentanyl supplies are increasing, but overall our overdoses are down. Now that being said, by no means should we be complacent about this.” Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said. “If anything, Sioux Falls defies national trends in a positive way a lot of times; that’s because we are uniquely collaborative, work together as a community, and are willing to work for the good and better bit of our young people.”

Emily’s Hope, a non-profit organization, took part in a Law Enforcement Briefing on May 8, 2023, in partnership with Chief Thum and Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, to bring attention to the fentanyl epidemic and how it’s affecting the community. The briefing aimed to educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl and raise awareness of National Fentanyl Awareness Day tomorrow, May 9th. Alicia Steinfurth, who lost her 23-year-old son, Josh, to a fentanyl-laced pill, and Diane Eide, who lost her son, Trace, to a meth overdose, both shared their sons’ stories. 

“If you have a loved one who is abusing drugs or you suspect is using drugs, you need to get them help. One pill truly can kill, and that is what we are learning from the victims here in our community.” Sheriff Milstead said. 

Emily’s Hope and The Link Community Triage Center have joined hands to provide fentanyl testing strips to the community to help reduce the risks of fentanyl poisoning. These testing strips have recently been made legal in South Dakota by the state legislature. Emily’s Hope is at the forefront of this initiative.

“While we are seeing some positive numbers here in Sioux Falls in terms of overdose deaths going down, we are still seeing way too many deaths, and we have our work cut out for us. In the five years since my 21-year-old daughter Emily died, we have seen fentanyl deaths go up some 300% in this nation. We can not arrest our way out of this epidemic, it has to come through awareness, education, and prevention, and Emily’s Hope is working on all of those aspects.” Emily’s Hope Founder Angela Kennecke said. “In partnership with The Link, Emily’s Hope now has 10,000 fentanyl testing strips to pass out in the Sioux Falls area and South Dakota, and we are going to be doing that. We know that we want to stop all illicit drug use, but we know that people will still use drugs, and we want them to test it for fentanyl because we know most people don’t know that there is fentanyl in the drug that they take. We want them to utilize these strips to test their drugs until we can get them help.”

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is responsible for the highest number of deaths among Americans aged 18-45. Teenage overdoses from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, have doubled in the last three years, and 73% of them are unaware of counterfeit prescription pills that contain fentanyl. Illegally produced fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, cocaine, and MDMA to increase profits, putting users at a higher risk of poisoning and overdose.

The situation calls for collective action to address this critical public health crisis facing the nation today. The loss of 26 lives in Minnehaha County alone in 2022 is a stark reminder of the urgency of the situation. Emily’s Hope is committed to working towards reducing the risks associated with fentanyl overdose by providing fentanyl testing strips and raising awareness about the dangers of fentanyl.

For more information about Emily’s Hope, its mission, and ongoing initiatives, please visit https://emilyshope.charity

Editor/Producer Note:

Angela Kennecke, CEO and Founder of Emily’s Hope, is available for interviews on National Fentanyl Awareness Day. Angela has been featured on NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS This Morning, NewsNation, and dozens of other national outlets.

Over the last decade, Angela has focused many of her stories on the growing opioid crisis. Tragically, her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, died of a fentanyl overdose. In the wake of this personal loss, Angela has taken Emily’s story nationwide and even internationally. She speaks tirelessly about the issues surrounding opioid addiction, a parent’s frustration, and a sense of helplessness, all from the perspective of a mother who has lost her child.

To schedule an interview with Angela Kennecke, please contact Anna Fey at [email protected] or 605-940-3504.

National Fentanyl Awareness Day

National Fentanyl Awareness Day is a day of action on May 9, 2023, that aims to raise awareness about an urgent national problem: people are dying at alarming rates due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid. This National Fentanyl Awareness Day, we’re proud to spread the word to save lives. Join us!

Emily’s Hope is dedicated to removing the stigma of substance use disorder through awarenesseducation, and prevention; and removing financial barriers for treatment and recovery. Our prevention education curriculum is designed to give K-12 students the tools they need to make better choices as they head into their teenage years. 

Prevention is key to ending deaths caused by overdose, and we need your support to make this possible. By giving children the tools they need to make informed decisions, we can create a safer and healthier future for all.