Emergency crews have responded to at least 18 overdoses around the county so far this month, according to Branden Jackman, public information officer for Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District – a pattern he referred to as “the new normal.”
“We’ve seen almost a three-times increase from the same time period last year,” he told The Times-Gazette Tuesday.
Jackman, also a firefighter and paramedic at Paint Creek, said on Tuesday the department had responded to seven overdose calls since Monday, May 15 – three of which occurred Monday, May 22, and one of which occurred early in the day Tuesday.
“It’s becoming the new normal,” he said.
In one overdose case on Monday, Hillsboro police responded to Highland District Hospital after it was reported an overdose victim was dropped off at the emergency room, according to HPD officer Adam Day.
Day said a man brought a woman to the ER after she overdosed at his home near the hospital. Initially, Day said, it sounded as though someone had dropped the woman off at the hospital and left, although they discovered later that the man had actually stayed to make sure everything was alright.
“It wasn’t necessarily an overdose dropped off and kicked out,” he said. “That’s initially what we thought.”
In this case, he said, it was just somebody trying to do the right thing.
Day said the overdose victim was served with House Bill 110 paperwork, which states overdose victims must be assessed for drug treatment within 30 days of their overdose or be criminally charged.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, HB 110 – also known as the “Good Samaritan Law” – grants full immunity to those who report overdoses, and temporary immunity to those who overdose on drugs, contingent on whether they enter a drug treatment program within 30 days.
Despite the fact that those who inform authorities of overdoses can’t be charged, Jackman said he’s heard of situations where people have driven overdose victims to the ER, then dropped them off and left, and crews have even responded to overdose scenes where other people involved have already cleaned up evidence of drug use and left before authorities arrived.
“It happens, unfortunately,” he said. “This culture, the overdoses… have kind of bred that.”
The Associated Press reported that a record 3,050 Ohioans died from fatal drug overdoses last year, most of them heroin or painkiller-related deaths, making 2016 the state’s deadliest-ever year for overdoses.
The AP reported on Tuesday that Ohio is opening a new crime lab focused exclusively on testing drugs such as opiates. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab in Springfield will test drugs like heroin, fentanyl – a deadlier opiate increasingly found in heroin sold on the streets – and carfentanil, an opiate often used as elephant tranquilizer that has been found in heroin in different areas around Ohio.
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from Clark County and Springfield unveiled the lab Tuesday.
BCI also operates crime labs around Ohio in Bowling Green, London and Richfield.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.