Scioto County is experiencing a high number of overdoses like much of the surrounding area, so an alert has been issued by the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency. Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth Health Department said a powerful opiate drug called fentanyl or carfentanil has been found in some products marketed as heroin in southern Ohio.
“As far as I know there weren’t any deaths yesterday (Thursday), but we have had several deaths this month,” Lisa Roberts, RN of the Portsmouth City Health Department said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Times Friday.
Fentanyl is an opiate some 50 times more potent than morphine, and carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer, some 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
“This fentanyl and carfentanil have pretty much become dominant in the heroin supply in this region,” Roberts said. “They’ve had it in Kentucky, Lawrence County (Ohio) has had a bunch of overdoses and we really sort of watched it come down from the Dayton area. Washington Court House issued an alert. Ross County issued an alert. Pike County and Ross County both got hit, so we were really keeping a close eye on it.”
Health officials in this area have an electronic surveillance system that allows them to monitor activity in the Southern Ohio Medical Center emergency room.
“We saw a spike yesterday (Thursday),” Roberts said. “That’s when we issued an alert.”
Roberts said Kim Carver of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency (SCEMA) is one who receives the information and issues the alert for Scioto County.
“It’s not as bad as we have had in the past. Remember we had 12 at one time,” Roberts said in reference to a weekend in April 2016. “We’ve taken multiple rounds of this fentanyl and it’s pretty much always here. It’s just that a particularly potent batch will come through. It depends on the chemist that mixes this stuff up. They do it to basically extend their product.”
Roberts said caution around the drug is important.
“Just breathing in a few grains of the powder can be fatal,” Roberts said. “They have to send it to the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) lab, and BCI has confirmed carfentanil in southern Ohio.”
Roberts said the Montgomery County (Dayton) Coroner recently announced he is unable to keep up with the bodies coming into his office. His office has already processed 145 overdose-related deaths in 2017.
According to SCEMA, the product may be disguised as heroin or fake pills designed to look like real pharmaceuticals. The product is causing rapid respiratory depression upon ingestion. Anyone who ingests the product is at extreme risk of death. If you witness an overdose it is extremely important to stay with the person and call 911. Narcan or naloxone can also be administered. Naloxone (narcan) blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication.
“I really want to remind everybody that narcan is available now at Krogers, and CVS at the pharmacy,” Roberts said. “You’ve just got to ask the pharmacist. It’s treated like a medicine benefit. So no matter what insurance you have will cover it. You might have to pay a little $5 co-pay. It depends on your plan. Medicaid covers it, period, flat-out free.”
Roberts said it is available in a small nasal spray about the size of a tube of lipstick.
“You can just keep it in your purse at all times,” Roberts said. “Everybody ought to take advantage of getting it.”
Roberts said overdosing people are being found in bathrooms, parking lots, and other public places, so people should keep the narcan at easy access.
“People need to understand that there is addiction treatment available now in Scioto County,” Roberts said. “We have Recovery Gateway at the Health Department now. We will actually take people and get them into a treatment program that’s suitable for them.”
The City Health Department can be reached at 740-353-5153.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.