MIAMI COUNTY — Combining their knowledge and resources, a group of local officials, public service providers and other community members called the “Miami County Heroin Coalition” revealed their efforts to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic with a more compassionate approach at a press conference held at the Miami County Sheriff’s Office Training Center on Wednesday.
Miami County Heroin Coalition facilitator and local attorney Steven Justice rattled off startling statistics about the growing heroin addiction in the community.
“In Miami County, approximately 50 people per month are overdosing on heroin or opiates a month. Even in the last week in Troy, we’ve had someone overdose in the bathroom at Walgreens, in the bathroom at McDonalds and we’ve had two people who died, age 27 and 31, in Piqua just in the last week from suspected heroin overdoses,” Justice shared.
“It’s a combined private/public effort,” Justice said. “It’s something that is plaguing the entire state and the region. Yet, we are here and we wanted to see what we could do in Miami County.”
Justice, along with Troy Fire Department Chief Matt Simmons, spearheaded the task force to help address the growing heroin epidemic in Miami County at the beginning of 2016.
“There’s not a lot of data to support some of the risks that we are willing to take to really show the compassion we have for these people to say, ‘Hey, they are our community, they are our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters.’ As a fire chief, I committed to my community to protect and serve them, but I also committed to my crews. This is to protect them, also. As for my crews, this isn’t training them to go into a burning building, but they suffer from the psychological effect every day they go out to these overdoses.”
Simmons shared that the Troy Fire Department has had a 275 percent increase in Narcan administrations to victims since 2013.
“We don’t have a lot of data, but we know what we’ve been doing hasn’t been affecting the curve to have it go the other way,” Simmons said.
Simmons also stressed how the impact of the group’s simple addiction and recovery resource brochure could help victims and their families find help.
“This sheet here is just an extra step for us and law enforcement to just give to these overdose victims, no matter how they come through the front door or if we go to their front door,” Simmons said. “This says ‘Hey, there’s help in Miami County.’”
Justice shared the coalition’s first brochure, which features mental health and addiction and counseling resources for Miami, Darke and Shelby counties. The brochure is available online and can be downloaded on the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call websites.
“No one had ever put together a comprehensive resource guide which listed all of the addiction and counseling services that were available to residents of Miami County,” Justice said. “One thing an addict or family member of an addict would say is, ‘Where can I go? What can I do?’ and just to have a resource to hand them which can give them some information is so helpful for all of us.”
The coalition began meeting voluntarily once a month in January. The coalition has four subcommittees: the Safe Harbor Committee (comprised of first responders — Law Enforcement and Fire); the Medical Support Committee (comprised of Medical and Addiction Treatment/Counseling professionals); the Education/Prevention Committee (comprised of court, church, and addiction treatment professionals); and the Faith-Based Committee (comprised of pastors and para-church ministries).
The coalition shared how the Miami County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been trained to administer Narcan. According to Major Steve Lord, deputies have been carrying the medicine, which can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, for the last month. The Miami County Sheriff’s deputies carry Narcan kits in their cruisers to administer Narcan to addicts who have overdosed if they are the first to arrive on the scene.
Upper Valley Medical Center held a continuing medical education seminar last month to encourage doctors to become licensed to prescribe Suboxone in Miami County.
Justice shared there are currently zero doctors licensed to administer Suboxone to addicts.
Suboxone is drug that assists addicts with the symptoms experienced during the withdrawal phase from heroin addiction. The symptoms associated with withdrawal are a major reason why heroin addicts do not seek help. Approximately 15 medical providers attended the event, and one doctor has volunteered to obtain the education to become a licensed provider.
The Coalition also will support the Hope over Heroin event to be held on July 8-9 at the Miami County Fairgrounds. The event will feature a “City of Resources” for addicts and families at the event among other activities and resources.
Justice also reported that a “Quick Response Team” of first responders is being formed to pilot a program that would reach out to addicts who have overdosed. The follow-up program would visit addicts within 48-72 hours after an overdose to help them enter treatment. The Quick Response Team would be a cooperative effort with three members: Police, Fire/EMS, and an Addiction Treatment Specialist.
Justice said the coalition does not have a specific donation fund set up, but urged the community to donate to the coalition’s agencies including the Tri-County Health Board, Miami County Recovery Council or to donate funds for the Hope over Heroin event.
If you would like to volunteer, donate or would like more information on how to participate at the Hope over Heroin event, email Pastor Aaron Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations also can be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch or visit the Hope Over Heroin website at www.hopeoverheroin.com and designate a donation to the Troy event.