A spike in heroin deaths means Middletown is spending more resources and money on prevention, City Manager Doug Adkins said Monday during the city’s ninth Heroin Summit.
Adkins estimated as much as 90 percent of public safety services are connected to fighting heroin and that commitment takes away from police officers and firefighters completing other responsibilities.
“It’s eating our public safety services alive,” he said during the summit at Atrium Medical Center.
The trend is continuing to rise. Middletown had 118 drug overdoses the first two months of this year, a 174 percent jump from the 43 during the same time last year, the city manager said. The overdose deaths jumped from 10 to 13 during January and February this year compared to 2016, Adkins said.
In all of last year, Middletown had 532 overdoses, 74 of them were fatal, he said. Of the overdoses, 306 were males and 226 were females, he said. The ages ranged from 17 to 71 and the average age was 38, he said.
To combat the heroin epidemic, Middletown Division of Police has added canines, and all five are trained to detect drugs. Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said the canines have made “a ton of arrests” and the police department is collaborating with the State Highway Patrol to reduce the amount of illegal drugs coming into the city. He said most of the drugs entering Middletown are traveling south from Dayton or north from Cincinnati on Interstate 75.
The city made 800 drug arrests last year, which Muterspaw characterized as: “Not a dent.”
Then he added: “Nothing is working.”
Middletown is seeing more participation in treatment advocated by its Heroin Response Team, said Fire Capt. David Von Bargen.
Since starting the program in June 2016, Von Bargen said a team that consists of a police officer, paramedic and care coordinator has contacted 208 Middletown residents who overdosed on heroin. On those, 112, or 54 percent, have walked into a treatment center and sought services from counseling to in-patient treatment, he said.
Lindsey Ervin, care coordinator for the Heroin HopeLine, serves on the Middletown Heroin Response Team and she called that percentage “amazing.”
Once a week, the team goes door-to-door making contact with someone who has overdosed. The goal is to get them into treatment, discuss insurance options and get their family members counseling, if needed.
“You can get the addict help, but if you don’t help the family it won’t work out well,” she said.
When the team approaches a home, Ervin said some residents take off running because they see a police officer.
Then, when they are told why the team is there, the emotions range from shock to tears, she said.
“It’s devastating,” Ervin said of the home visits. “You see dirty and hungry kids. You see people who are sad and depressed. These are humans and they’re struggling. It’s hard out here. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a trace of (heroin). These kids, this is all they see so they think this is what you’re supposed to do. This is the norm for a lot of children.”
Ervin, 33, who lives in Hamilton, said her mother was a heroin addict. She wants a better life for those dealing with “the monster” of heroin addiction, she said.
“I see so much death, sorrow and pain,” she said after the heroin summit. “When I lay down at night, I think of five people this week, five families I didn’t save this week. And the next day, I’ll get that one phone call, ‘Hey my parents gave me a key to their house again. I haven’t had a key to their house in 15 years.’ It’s motivation and it keeps me going. What if that was my kid, your kid? Would you want someone to save your kid? I know I’d want someone to save mine.”