Madison Township Police handle 5 opiate overdoses over 3 days as new database helps track addicts

Recently, in just three days, Madison Township officials responded to five opiate overdoses.

Police report the first — around 1:30 a.m. March 18 — involved a 36-year-old man whom officers revived with a dose of Narcan. The second, which happened about 8 p.m. March 18, involved a 26-year-old man who also required Narcan to come to.

At 1:30 a.m. Sunday a 42-year-old man required two doses of Narcan from police, plus another six doses from fire department personnel, to be revived. Around 8:15 a.m. Monday, a fourth overdose victim — a 23-year-old man — needed six doses of Narcan to be revived by the fire department. And, about 10 p.m. Monday, a fifth overdose victim — a 38-year-old man whose case is still under investigation — required police intervention, according to Madison Township Police Chief Matthew Byers, who said his department responds “probably weekly” to opiate overdose complaints.

“It really fluctuates,” Byers said, adding that the varied origins of these drugs and the fact they’re largely unregulated make it anyone’s guess when, or how often, overdoses will occur. “I think it

has to do with the different batches of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl that are out on the streets at any given time.”

None of the people who made it through these five ODs in Madison Township were charged criminally, thanks to Ohio House Bill 110, which went into effect in June and is intended to allow folks who report overdoses to avoid being arrested on drug charges, themselves, even if they’re high or otherwise complicit, when they call 911.

Referred to as a “Good Samaritan Law,” HB110 includes a three-strikes provision that permits people who are in violation of the state’s narcotics statutes to go seek help, in lieu of jail time, in hopes that they ask for assistance when their friends are overdosing, rather than just depositing them on hospitals’ doorsteps, or worse, doing nothing at all.

Byers said the township is trying everything it can to curb opiate abuse and educate its residents, starting in the schools.

“We’re basically trying everything we can,” he said. “We’re trying to educate in the schools by working with teachers, parents and everyone else we can.”

He said a recent Hidden in Plain Sight presentation the Madison School District hosted is a good example of the community’s efforts to stave off the opiate-addiction scourge at the schools-level and this recent HB 110 initiative is yet another tool to use to combat the omnipresent opioid drug-addiction and overdose problem.

But it’s a labor-intensive effort that requires multiple law enforcement agencies to work together and keep track of offenders.

“Basically, it asks local police departments to track people who’ve been convicted of having pills, heroin, etc.,” said Lake County Narcotics Agency Director David Frisone.

He said the point is to find out whether these folks are actually pursuing treatment or they’re just using the system to get out of jail free.

Both Byers and Frisone agree it’s too soon to tell whether the effort is working, especially since it’s tough to keep track of offenders between agencies.

As a result, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and its Heroin Task Force is initiating a county-wide database that will keep track of each offender’s status — whether he or she actually sought drug-addiction help and if they are following through with it.

“The thing about House Bill 110 is that it does put a lot of added burden on law enforcement,” Byers said. “It makes the job more difficult. But, at this point, we’re willing to try anything to see if it’s effective.”

He said that the HB 110 program, and the database Lake County is beginning to assemble around it, is too new to judge at this point. But it’s worth a shot.

“It’s in its infancy,” he said. “But if we agencies throughout Lake County cooperate with each other and share information, it might work out pretty well.”

Frisone agreed. Although he said his agency isn’t as concerned with individual drug users as it is with drug traffickers, it’s all information-sharing, which is never a bad thing.

“As this grows and we all combine information with each other, all this information will be a big help,” he said.

By Jonathan Tressler, The News-Herald

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