Creed Culbreath told the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition that his experience investigating two drug overdose fatalities was what led him to make “house calls” with overdose survivors and encourage them to seek help.
Culbreath, an investigator for the Highland County Coroner’s Office, spoke to the coalition on Thursday about his experiences with the opioid crisis here, saying the drug problem has “touched, in one way or another, every household in the county.”
The investigator has for several months been visiting the homes of people who experienced a nearly fatal overdose.
Culbreath said he makes public records requests for police and sheriff’s reports on overdose incidents, then attempts to make contact with the person who nearly died and encourages them to seek treatment.
“In all but one case, I’ve been received very, very graciously,” he said.
Culbreath said he was compelled to begin making visits after he investigated two overdose deaths that he said still haunt him.
Culbreath said he at one point received a call from Dr. Jeff Beery, the county coroner, asking him to help investigate the death of a man who appeared to have overdosed.
Beery told him the man had been dead for more than an hour, but the body’s temperature was still about 107 degrees, apparently due to the effect of the drugs remaining his system, Culbreath said.
Culbreath said the man had been a friend of his family, and he remembered him as a kind person who would not hesitate to help those in need.
It was his “evil companions” who drove him to drug use, Culbreath said, expressing frustration that they had seemingly evaded the law and still walk the streets.
According to Culbreath, the man’s companions had put him in an ice bath after he overdosed — somewhat of a home remedy to drug overdoses that may have made matters worse, Culbreath said — then waited to call 911 until after the life squad had already been dispatched, apparently taking advantage of Ohio’s “Good Samaritan Law,” which prevents criminal charges from being filed against those who call 911.
In the end, they took the man’s wallet and some evidence from the scene, and left, Culbreath said.
In the other case, Culbreath said a woman who frequently used drugs but seemed to desire recovery died from using a large amount of carfentanil, a powerful opioid often put in street heroin and sold to unknowing users.
Culbreath said that as he became familiar with the events that led to her death, he discovered she had at one point been found unconscious in a “shooting gallery,” a home somewhat designated for drug users to use illicit substances, and at another time she was left, by “the father of her child,” in front of a fire department, where she could presumably be treated for an overdose.
According to Culbreath, the woman at one point told a family member, “I think someone’s trying to kill me.”
Culbreath said he hopes that through his visits, he can tell other drug addicts that, “yes, someone is trying to kill you, and let’s not let them succeed.”
Also Thursday, Kim Zornes, pastor of Carpenter’s House of Prayer in Hillsboro, spoke to the coalition about Shiloh Recovery Ministries, an addiction recovery outreach sponsored by the church.
Zornes said groups meet weekly to discuss the Bible and encourage each other, and organizers hope to expand the outreach to provide residential services.
According to Zornes, the ministry began several years ago when the pastor noticed there were people coming to the church with drug addictions, and he felt compelled to help them.
Zornes said that the opioid crisis became personal to him when he found out a friend of his family had overdosed six times.
A man who said he had recovered from drug addiction by attending the meetings also spoke briefly, saying he had used drugs ever since he was 15 years old. The man said he used to attend services at Carpenter’s House of Prayer, but eventually ended up living at a homeless shelter at a Columbus church.
He said he eventually came back to Hillsboro and began attending recovery meetings at the church, where he was able to find recovery from addiction.
“Between Shiloh and God, it changed my life,” he said.
According to Zornes, the ministry has coordinated residential recovery services for two women by providing small cabins where they can get back on their feet and live a sober life, and Zornes hopes to add a larger cabin to house more people.
Kim Davis, founder of local drug abuse prevention nonprofit Hope for Highland, presented Zornes with a $4,000 check for the outreach.
In other matters, the coalition heard from representatives of Groups, a newly opened counseling service and recovery assistance facility in Hillsboro, about its various services.
According to a spokesman, Groups offers weekly counseling sessions for those addicted to drugs, as well as prescriptions for Suboxone, a mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone that is used to treat opiate addiction.
The spokesman said clients are allowed one week’s worth of Suboxone at a time, and can only receive the prescription if they attend counseling sessions.
The spokesman said Groups does not keep Suboxone on site.
The next meeting of the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition will be held at noon on Thursday, Jan. 25 in the large conference room at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
For more information, visit the coalition’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HCDAPC.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.