Naloxone, DART keys to decline in county's overdose deaths

Pre-naloxone days, an Ottawa County sheriff's deputy or Port Clinton police officer showed up to a heroin overdose scene ahead of other first responders and their options were limited.

Five years ago, an officer could keep other people clear from the overdose scene, said Carl Rider, commander of Ottawa County's drug task force.

As precious minutes elapsed, with no naloxone on his duty belt to revive an overdose victim struggling to breathe, that officer could only wait for an ambulance and hope for the best.

Rider and other county officials credit naloxone as one of the main reasons the county's overdose death numbers dramatically declined in 2017, from 14 in 2016 to 7, and continue to drop this year.

Naloxone acts as an opioid antagonist and blocks the effects of heroin, fentanyl and other opiates on receptors in the brain.

While the number of overdose deaths has declined in Ottawa County, a more potent synthetic mixture of drugs means officers and medical personnel often need more than one dose of naloxone to revive someone who's overdosed, Rider said.

"Now you're having to give them two or three in each nostril because the opioid they're taking, even though they think it's heroin, if it's got fentanyl or carfentanil or 3-methyfentanyl (in it), it takes multiple doses of naloxone to do its job," Rider said.

Ottawa County Sheriff's Office Deputy Heather Moss said the sheriff's office gets its naloxone for deputies through the county's health department.

Sheriff's deputies administered seven doses of naloxone in 2017 and are up to 16 so far this year, Moss said.

Moss said the sheriff's office has been using naloxone to revive overdose victims since 2014.

Non-fatal overdoses increase

Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerten said the county has seen an increase in non-fatal overdose calls in 2018, even as it's bucked the statewide trend and reduced the number of overdose deaths.

Judge Bruce Winters of Ottawa County Common Pleas Court acknowledged he's seeing a lot of naloxone use, which is saving lives but also reflects a continuing struggle to keep drugs out of the county.

“I would hope people dealing with addiction are being more careful with what they’re doing, but I just don’t see that,” Winters said.

An Aug. 25, Port Clinton Police responded to an overdose call in the 800 block of Michigan Drive. A police incident report showed the chaos officers and EMS periodically see when they get called and are forced to administer naloxone multiple times.

At 4:17 a.m., Port Clinton police and North Central EMS were dispatched to the Michigan Drive residence.

The Port Clinton police officer arrived, went inside and found a 29-year-old man to be nonresponsive.

The man did not appear to be breathing and the officer administered 4 mg of naloxone.

After the nonresponsive man showed no change, the officer gave him a second dose of naloxone. He began gasping as North Central EMS arrived on scene, according to the police report.

North Central EMS personnel delivered a third dose of naloxone to the man before intubating him, or inserting a breathing tube, then loading him on a stretcher and taking him to the emergency room at Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton.

Drug Abuse Response Team officer Trevor Johnson met the overdose victim at Magruder's ER.

The man told police he had snorted half a Percocet at a friend's house before coming over to the Michigan Drive residence.

He said someone else gave him the drugs already crushed up.

VanEerten and Rider both recalled one Ottawa County case where police and EMS had to deliver 16 or 17 doses of naloxone to an overdose victim, the highest number they can remember in recent years to revive someone.

Treatment saves lives

Johnson carries naloxone with him everywhere he goes, whether it's needed on a 4 a.m. wakeup call or in VanEerten's office on a Friday morning to show visitors during regular business hours.

Within five days of starting as DART director on Aug. 21, 2017, Johnson responded to his first overdose.

He works with counseling agencies, law enforcement, fire departments and Magruder Hospital to find help for overdose victims that can put them on the path to addiction-recovery services.

Once someone overdoses in Ottawa County, the first call is for an ambulance.

Then, a 911 dispatcher calls Johnson.

The first objective at the scene is to stabilize an overdose victim, with naloxone used if necessary to revive a patient.

VanEerten estimated Johnson has been dispatched to 50 or 60 overdose calls since he started in 2017.

Some calls involve drug addicts, while others could be for suicidal subjects.

"He's very talented at finding the available resources we have and getting people plugged in," VanEerten said.

Like Rider, Johnson credits naloxone for the drop in Ottawa County overdose deaths.

Many times, law enforcement arrive on the scene before an ambulance can respond to an overdose.

Johnson said somebody who's not breathing has a five-minute window before irreversible brain damage sets in.

A person who's been revived with naloxone often wakes up with what Johnson described as a "freaky feeling," particularly if they've been intubated.

"But at least they're breathing," he said.

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