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Homeless shelter leaders encourage addiction recovery after increase in overdoses

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- More than a dozen people overdose within just a few short hours downtown on Saturday afternoon. First responders believe the patients were high on spice.

At least ten of the people who overdosed over the weekend were staying at Wheeler Mission. This isn't the first time there have been multiple overdoses in the area at once. In late January/early February, police investigated multiple overdoses, likely from Flakka. The drugs were being brought into the shelter.

Now, three months and dozens of more overdoses later, leaders are encouraging drug users to take advantage of their addiction and recovery services.

Drug enforcement agency experts said warmer weather often brings out an increase in street sales. With spice, experts said the drugs are easier to get and often cheaper.

"If they can find a way to sell that to a group of individuals and make money, they don’t care what the results are," said DEA Asst. Special Agent in Charge Greg Westfall.

At Wheeler Mission, there are more police patrols, as well as K9s inside and out of the facility to make sure drugs aren't brought into the shelter. This time, all of the overdoses happened outside and across the street from the shelter.

"Outside of our building, there’s not a whole lot we can do, but we can encourage guys to move along and we can encourage guys to come inside," said Wheeler Mission Chief Development Officer Steve Kerr.

Because spice is a form of synthetic marijuana, those who overdosed weren't able to receive overdose reversing drugs and were taken to the hospital. Kerr is encouraging them to come back to the shelter, even after they're released from the hospital.

"We want to get them engaged right away with a case manager to try to determine what’s going on with their life and get them into some sort of a long-term service," said Kerr.

Multiple people were arrested in January and February's overdose cases. IMPD said they are still investigating who sold the drugs in this weekends case.

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