PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As federal lawmakers look to crack down on the illegal use of a veterinary tranquilizer that is being laced with other drugs, a group of residents doing outreach is seeing the side effects firsthand.
Wes and Nicole Bixler founded the nonprofit Operation In My Backyard.
The couple works to provide weekly outreach on the corner of Ruth and Somerset streets every Tuesday to help those most in need at the epicenter of Philadelphia's opioid epidemic.
"We offer harm reduction, street-based services in Kensington. We have meals, wound care and first aid services," said Nicole.
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"A lot of the people out here don't want to go to the hospital," said Wes. "Their wounds become worse, and we try to dress them and keep them clean, but it's bad."
They say these wounds are getting worse because of an animal tranquilizer called xylazine, or tranq, that is being mixed with opioids.
"And it's causing these wounds that really, genuinely need hospital care," said Wes.
Action News first told you about the deadly effects of xylazine in a special investigation last fall.
According to the city, tranq was detected in 34% of all drug overdose deaths in 2021 - a 39% increase from 2020.
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"It's not just about giving out sterile needles. It's about building a rapport with people and maybe at some point, someone may be comfortable to say: 'Hey can you take me to the hospital?' Or maybe: 'I want to go to treatment'," said Nicole.
Operation In My Backyard says a big help battling this latest drug would be to have test kits for xylazine, something the city has said they're looking to purchase.