Orrville Police Chief: Heroin use at epidemic levels

An incident that marred the early season at Orr Park Swimming Pool may be unsettling, but Orrville police say the problem of heroin abuse in the community is not a new one, and does not appear to be going away.

The June 6 incident involved a 28-year-old woman a pool attendant found unconscious, slumped over a toilet in the restroom of the women's changing room of the park pool.

Police Chief Dino Carozza said officers and squad personnel initially believed she was deceased, but discovered a slight heartbeat.

They found evidence of heroin use next to the woman, including a hypodermic needle and a bottle cap containing an unidentified fluid that was taken as evidence and sent to the Bureau of Criminal Identification lab in Richfield where it is awaiting processing.

People taking heroin often liquefy the product by heating it in a small container, then sucking it into a syringe to inject themselves.

Paramedic Kevin Baldwin was able to help the woman regain consciousness by administering Narcan (slang for Naloxone), which reverses the effects of narcotics. The drug is often administered by injecting it into the nasal passages of the victim.

Carozza said his department only last month began carrying the Narcan along with its electronic defibrillation equipment.

Fire Chief Bob Ballentine said paramedics have carried Narcan for several years.

"It's nothing new to us," said Ballentine, noting Narcan can be administered nasally, through an IV or by injection. He said the drug is available to families who have a chronic abuser of opiates in the household for emergency use.

Ballentine said paramedics administered Narcan three times last year, and one time so far this year.

Before injecting herself with the drug, the woman had taken her three children, ages, 3, 7 and 9, to the pool so they could swim. When a relative of the woman's learned what had happened to their mother, she got the kids out of the pool and put them in the car where police later learned about them.

The woman, Carozza said, regained consciousness within a minute after the Narcan was administered and was able to talk to police and paramedics.

The woman was not arrested, nor was she charged with a crime. In order to do so, Carozza noted, it would have to be shown in advance of taking the matter to the prosecutor the drug involved actually was heroin. He said that determination must be made by the BCI, but added analysis could take between two and four months "depending on how backed up they are."

If the drug turns out to be heroin, Carozza said, the department will recommend to the prosecutor charges of heroin possession and possession of drug abuse instruments.

The police chief noted the June 6 incident is just one of what in the past few years has become a growing problem in the city. He characterized the use of heroin and other opiates in Orrville, Wayne County and across Ohio as a whole as being at "epidemic levels."

"The loss of life is great. It's a national problem," said Carozza, adding heroin users also are highly susceptible to HIV and Hepatitis C.

"Heroin has been around for a few years in Orrville, but the last two years we have really seen an increase," said Carozza. "It's here in Wayne County and has been for a number of years, but lately it's really ramped up."

He said there have been instances in which unconscious heroin users have been dumped from vehicles at the emergency entrance to Aultman Orrville Hospital, and still more in which relatives of heroin users have called police to report a medical emergency, not realizing the illness was caused by heroin.

Carozza noted while "Medway (Drug Enforcement Agency) is doing a great job building cases against people" involved in drug trafficking, he said heroin is "readily available" locally, its source most often being Detroit, and other urban areas.

Carozza said the only effective way to combat the problem is to "create an awareness among youth that this is not a good way to deal with problems in life. They have to learn to deal with issues beyond using illegal drugs and use their family and friends as a support group."

He encouraged anyone having information on drug trafficking in the community to text the department's anonymous Tip 411 tipline.

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