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Monday, May 18, 2015

Colerain, Ohio, New Tactic to Fight Heroin

Down with stigmas; up with new visions that save lives. Often, a task seems too daunting to tackle, and when a community does make an honest attempt to stop a serious problem, they find it very difficult to coordinate efforts among all response groups and initiate the consensus.

Prayers and hope buoy positive change; however, direct actions allow humans with good intentions to come together and realize miracles. When a crippled community and their public servants work together, committed cooperation allows them to take bold new steps that can make all the difference between an epidemic and a problem "on the run."

While a September 2014 “Ohio Health Issues” poll found that 1 in 10 (1.2 million) Ohio adults know family or friends who experienced problems as a result of heroin, Colerain Township, Ohio, was led to ask, “Is anyone in Colerain Township trying to do something to address this epidemic?” 

The answer in Colerain Township, the second largest Township in the State of Ohio, soon became “Yes, yes we are."

Firefighters in Colerain, Ohio initiated the option of leaving resource packets with patients saved during suspected overdose runs. The packets are filled with updated phone numbers of treatment facilities and information about addiction in general. Medics believe recovery resources may be just as effective when it comes to saving the life of a heroin addict as the medical treatment they give to stop an overdosed victim. They have handed out more than 100 resource packets since the end of last summer.

(Todd Dykes. "Colerain firefighters' program to fight heroin inspires other states."
WLWT5. May 13, 2015)

And public safety leaders in Colerain Township are going to launch quick response teams in June. Each team -- comprised of

* A firefighter/paramedic,
* A police officer, and
* A recovery expert.

Their goal will be to visit the homes of people who nearly overdose on illegal opiates.

"We arrive at the door, and we treat you as an overdose patient," Colerain Fire Captain Will Mueller said., describing how a quick response team will work. "We're going to ask you if you want additional resources. We're going to ask you if we can bring additional help to your doorstep. And by them signing a release, we'll be able to give their information. We will actually bring Addiction Services Council to their doorstep, and we're going to get them the help they need. We're going to bridge that gap."

But, before any of that happens though, Meuller said fire crews in Colerain have started administering just enough Narcan or naloxone to stabilize a patient in order to get that patient to a local hospital. Paramedics have been instructed to scale back on the amount of Narcan they give someone who has overdosed on heroin, so the person remains unconscious and they don't potentially refuse transportation to a hospital.

(Jay Warren. "Colerain Township Fire Department introduces
new tactic in heroin fight." WCPO 9)

"Getting them to the hospital was paramount," Mueller said. "In other words, if we treated them at the scene and we brought them back and they refused treatment, chances of them relapsing or going back to their old habits was pretty likely."

Mueller knows his department will face critics who will say the initiative is not punitive. "We are moving forward in this direction because we feel like it's the right thing to do," Mueller said. "It makes sense. We have talked to the subject matter experts, if you will, and they all say we're doing the right thing. It's an educational process, and it's something we had to become educated on. With the affirmation that we're doing the right thing, we're doing it, and we're seeing some success."

Mueller said fire agencies in six states have called him to find out more about the resource packets and quick response teams. In addition to Kentucky and Indiana, fire officials in New York, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia want to know more about what's happening in Colerain Township.

The department is a past recipient of the International Association of Fire Chiefs “Award of Excellence” and “Decade of Excellence” honors and was recently graded as a class two fire department by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). This ISO rating is the highest received by any department in the State of Ohio.

Response and Teamwork

The new initiatives in Colerain are formidable weapons against an opiate epidemic that overwhelmingly contributes to five overdose deaths a day in the Buckeye State. The thought and execution of such a plan is a tremendous achievement considering the vast differences in how to handle murderous substance abuse.

The three-pronged response groups effectively achieve maximum support for (a) saving lives, (b) maximizing efforts of enforcement, and (c) providing hope and recovery for those in peril. It is a compassionate commitment that offers public servants solid "punch" in a spearheading movement to improve the health of their community. Most of all, it is a very courageous, shoulder-to-shoulder march that defies political resistance and the ignominy of the drug problem.

In a David versus Goliath struggle, a well-placed "rock" can be a surprising weapon against evil. I wish Colerain all the success in the world, and I believe their tactic is an amazing feat of empathetic human response to a call to action we cannot ignore. Good luck, firefighter, police officers, and recovery experts. Thanks for being a model for Ohio and for the nation.

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