Hepatitis C cases have exploded by 326 percent since 2011 in Butler County, and with the continuing heroin epidemic the Board of Health is now offering free Narcan kits to family and friends of addicts.
Patricia Burg, director of the health department, said since the Journal-News posted a story about the free kits last Wednesday, they have already received 10 calls about the kits.
“Hepatitis C is primarily from sharing infected needles, that puts it right on the public health radar,” she said. “To see such a significant increase in deaths for overdoses, in 2015 there were 3,050 deaths in Ohio and we had 195 deaths in Butler County as a result of heroin and opiods, so Ohio Department of Heath (ODH) is certainly involved.”
The health department received 100 kits that contain two nasal doses of naloxone and two face shields, from the ODH that people can get by making an appointment and coming in for a 20-to-30 minute educational session about how to spot an overdose and deal with it.
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Burg said some people have commented that the health board is “enabling” drug addiction but she would disagree.
“I think primarily the people that we’re seeing who are using it, when we hear someone say something negative about the program, they say ‘those people’ and it’s not those people,” she said. “I think there is a fear of it going to a younger age where the kids are saying ‘oh my gosh this is really neat’ and it’s not and its very addictive. They say one dose and you’re hooked. That was our theory here in going into the program.”
Scott Gehring, CEO and president of Sojourner Recovery Services, told the Journal-News previously that once people get hooked they are hooked, and not necessarily for the high.
“They’re not looking for a high, but the problem is, once you become addicted you’re not doing it because you want to get high, you’re doing it because you don’t want to be sick. People don’t realize that, that’s the hard part to try and educate people,” Gehring said.
“When I say addicted, if you don’t have it you feel awful for a prolonged period of time, it’s like seven to ten days you feel like you’ve got the flu times ten, you’re muscles hurt, you’re body hurts, you’re dizzy, you’re nauseous, you’re vomiting, you’re getting cold sweats and chills, the drug sickness is absolutely miserable.”
The health department also received $14,000 from Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services to pay for Narcan injections for the fire departments. They have distributed the doses based on population and need. She said she believes those monies will continue to flow back to local jurisdictions, which is a good thing.
“We were really happy with that because I know this is taking a toll certainly on the fire department budgets,” she said.
Middletown has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic. Fire Chief Paul Lolli said they were given 106 doses from the health department in December and just got another 120 doses. They also received $2,000 from another source to purchase Narcan, which costs the city $33 per dose.
In the first 173 days of this year Middletown medics responded to 212 overdose calls and 39 people died, according to a department report. This represents a 20-call drop from the same time frame last year, but Lolli said the statistics on the epidemic show the incidents come in “peaks and valleys” with spikes usually at the beginning of the month when government checks arrive.
With their overdose numbers seemingly down, when asked if he thinks anyone has a handle on the epidemic, the chief pointed to last week in Cincinnati when there were 78 overdoses in two days.
“Honestly there’s time when we think we are making some headway, and then you get like what happened in Cincinnati last week,” he said. “You get a day like that and you think my God, this is never going to end. When are people going to learn, what’s it going to take.”