Chief Dave Light said there is a secondary threat in addition to the primary concern of citizen’s lives — that of their pocket books.
“Fentanyl is a dangerous, powerful Schedule II narcotic responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths within the United States,” according to the letter, which was released Wednesday.
On March 18, 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert on fentanyl as a threat to health and public safety, something Light said is also a local concern now.
“We have noticed a sharp increase in heroin/Fentanyl overdoses in recent months,” he said.
“As the heroin/fentanyl epidemic continues to burden communities across our country, we feel it is necessary to share this information with our community as a public safety concern,” Light said.
“We've more than doubled in the amount of heroin and fentanyl overdoses we've seen so far compared to this point last year. It’s a huge problem we have here all of sudden and it’s going to take a lot to get out of it.”
“No drug abuse is good, but I understand that the fentanyl is very bad,” Norwalk Fire Chief John Soisson said. “The overdoses are becoming harder and harder to bring back and it’s taking more Narcan.”
Narcan neutralizes the effects of opiates on a person’s body.
Cue the increase of a financial burden, Light said.
“We received three Narcan kits from (Huron County Public Health) for free. That’s two doses per Narcan kit, with three kits. So we received six free doses,” the police chief said.
“After that, it’s $68 per kit that we have to pay. That’s still two doses per kit. The health department received grant money that provides free Narcan to addicts and their families. Tax payers now will have to be burdened with cost of Narcan at $68 a piece when the heroin addicts are getting it for free. That’s not fair to the tax payers. And that’s not to mention the amount of doses it’s taking to bring back someone who’s overdosing on heroin now.”
When Narcan was first given to local law enforcement and emergency personnel the average overdose required one to two doses of Narcan to revive a patient.
“Fentanyl is contributing to more severe overdoses,” Light said.
“It used to be a heroin overdose would take one dose of Narcan from the nasal spray to bring them back, sometimes two doses. We have used as much as eight doses now. The normal use is four to six doses on someone overdoses on heroin. The most we’ve seen is eight doses with one we had about three weeks ago. It’s not uncommon anymore to use four to six doses on someone.”
That means the average overdose now, if an officer uses four to six doses of Narcan, that one case cost the department between $136 and $204.
The department has looked a couple of options that may help with the expense, including the possibility of donations, but nothing is solid as of yet.
“We’ve also been told we possibly may be able to get a discounted rate by going through the Fisher-Titus (Medical Center) pharmacy,” Light said. “We’re looking at some options.”
“The thing is, society is treating them as the victims when they’re not victims,” Light said. “The victims I’m seeing are the unborn children of the addicts or the children born as addicts because of their parents’ use and the families affected by their addiction.”
The Huron County Public Health reported 73 free Narcan kits were distributed through Project DAWN between May 9 and June 22, a significant number.
“We have them fill out an anonymous survey when they come for their kits,” said Katie Spaar, director of health. “In most cases they;re getting the kits because they’re concerned about someone else. Most of the people reported being the parent of someone they’re concerned about.”
Of those who agreed to fill in the survey, 34 percent said they were concerned about one of their children, 16 percent said a friend and another 16 percent a family member other than their spouse or child. Only 2 percent said the kit was for themselves.
The majority of the individuals people were concerned for were unemployed (64 percent) the most commonly known drugs to be used by the addict was heroin (29 individuals) with hydrocodone (15), Suboxone (14) and oxycodone (13) being other top contestants.
Health Commissioner Tim Hollinger said the trends are something to watch
“The average marijuana user does not classify themselves as a substance abuser,” he said.
“Some people might classify as substance abusers, but they don’t see themselves that way. Now that they understand Fentanyl is being laced in their marijuana, now they may realize they’re addicted to an opiate and their goal is not to be addicted to opiate. It will be interesting to see if we see a change in trends,” Hollinger said.
The health department will continue to provide free Narcan kits for the community. For more information, call or visit the health department.