Monday, July 14th, 2014
Deputies will start carrying overdose kits
By Margie Wuebker
Mercer County Sheriff's deputies will soon be carrying Narcan kits in their cruisers to immediately treat victims of a drug overdose.
"Right now we are limited to having AEDs, performing CPR and applying Band-Aids," sheriff Jeff Grey said. "Narcan adds another tool to the arsenal."
Instances have occurred when a deputy arrives at the scene of an overdose before an ambulance crew, Grey said.
Recent state legislation allows law enforcement officers to carry the nasal spray product in cruisers.
Once written policy has been drafted and personnel trained, local deputies will be able to administer the remedy using a ready-to-use, single-use delivery device. Narcan, also known as naloxone, is absorbed by nasal membranes even if the patient is not breathing. It blocks the effects of heroin and opioids on the brain and restores breathing. The cost - $18.60 for the drug and $4.50 for the nasal tip - will come from the sheriff's budget, according to Grey.
Celina fire chief Doug Wolters has seen first-hand how quickly overdose patients respond to Narcan.
"We administer it through an IV and people suffering from an opioid overdose respond," Wolters said. "It's miraculous."
Emergency medical personnel often arrive to find overdose patients in very serious condition. Within 30 to 60 seconds of receiving an injection, they are responding and talking, the fire chief added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show more than 16,500 Americans die each year from prescription opioids, including prescription painkillers like hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone. The drugs are chemical cousins to heroin, and the spike in their abuse has fueled the recent heroin addiction crisis.
In 2012, some 680 Ohioans died of heroin overdoses, more than a third of all overdose deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Wolters said he has seen an increase in drug-related calls in recent years; at least 11 drug-related deaths have occurred locally.
Estimates on the number of U.S. heroin addicts range from 300,000 to 500,000, up about 75 percent from five years ago, according to the National Institute on Drug Addiction.
Several years ago Grey and Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon hosted an informational meeting at Wright State University-Lake Campus to warn people that heroin was evident in Mercer County.
Once seen primarily in metropolitan areas, the drug has reached epidemic proportions because it is relatively cheap and readily accessible, officials have said.
Part-time drug interdiction and heroin units in the area have authorities focusing on users and dealers. Interdiction efforts focus on roadways traffickers use to bring heroin from Dayton and Fort Wayne, Ind.; the heroin unit hones in on drug users.
"We used to make deals in order to get bigger fish," Grey said. "The charges never went away but maybe there were fewer of them. We're not playing tattletale games anymore."
Grey plans to offer more school programs during the coming year. Area superintendents have endorsed the proposal, he said.
He's also taking the message to civic organizations and the upcoming Mercer County Fair. Brochures offering information and available community resources will be available at the sheriff's office booth during fair week. Plans also call for Grey to talk about the drug and its addictive powers at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at the junior fair tent.