Middletown on pace to double drug overdoses from last year

Overdoses continue to rise, impact public safety services.

Two years ago, Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins told a group at the Heroin Summit that his goal was to reduce the “heroin epidemic” by the first half of 2016.

On Monday, during the 10th Heroin Summit, Adkins said he had some “ugly” statistics to report as it appears heroin’s grip on the city and the region is getting tighter.

Middletown is on pace to double the number of drug overdoses this year, compared to 2016, according to Adkins.

Through June 17, the city has experienced 526 overdoses, 51 of them deadly, he said. During 2016, there were 458 overdoses in the city, 74 of them fatal, he said during the summit at Atrium Medical Center.

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The numbers continue to rise despite the “best practices” being used in the city, including implementing a Public Safety Quick Response Team and Needle Exchange Program.

The epidemic is draining the city’s public safety departments, overcrowding the city jail, and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, officials have said.

Fire Chief Paul Lolli said he’s concerned about the amount of money his department is spending on Narcan, which is used to revive those who overdose.

At the current rate, the city will spend up to $100,000 this year on Narcan. The city only projected spending $10,000 to $15,000.

The city is hoping to receive some state grants to offset the additional cost of Narcan, according to Lolli.

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When Lolli shared those numbers at the summit, Adkins said to purchase $100,000 worth of Narcan, the city would have to generate $5.7 million in payroll.

Lolli said the department was “caught by surprise” by the additional doses of Narcan it has had to use on many residents who overdose due to more potent forms of fentanyl.

One dose of Narcan is 2 milligrams, but the department has used up to 18 milligrams — nine doses — to revive one person, according to Lolli.

The region’s opioid crisis has become “more challenging” due to an increase in potent substances being mixed with heroin, Lolli said. Most notably, he said, this includes fentanyl, carfentanil, and synthetic opioids.

Many times, he said, there’s no heroin in the opioid being used.

Last year at this time, the city started its Quick Response Team where a police officer, paramedic and social worker meet with someone who has overdosed, hoping to get them into treatment.

In the first year of the program, 140 have sought treatment, according to Capt. David Von Bargen of the Middletown Fire Department. He was unable to provide statistics on how many of those people remain in treatment and for how long.

He said the team goes into the community once a week, and so far, the cost has been about $24,000.

The number of overdoses are rising at a time when the police department is arresting more drug dealers, said Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw. He said his department in working regionally with neighboring agencies because Middletown is located near Interstate 75.

Muterspaw said he’s constantly approached and asked why his department doesn’t arrest anyone who overdoses.

“Jail is not for addicts,” he said.

Those who provide the drugs are different, he said.

“We have no sympathy for dealers,” Muterspaw said.

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