Huntington overdoses put health officials on alert

By Frank Lewis|Reporter - [email protected]

The numbers speak for themselves. Ohio has had a 500 percent increase in fatalities from 2014 to 2015 in Fentanyl-related deaths, thus Ohio is number one in Fentanyl-related deaths.

Those startling statistics have caused local health officials to put together a “Rapid Action Plan” to tune into the trends as they see them rise. The creation of the coalition is the result of a recommendation for the state of Ohio from the Centers for Disease Control.

On Monday, 26 people were treated for overdose in a four hour period. Though no one died, it has prompted health officials in Scioto County to be on the alert.

“We watched it very close last (Monday) night. We had some text messages going around with (Portsmouth Police) Chief (Robert) Ware, and the health department, and (Scioto County EMA Director) Kim Carver,” Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “We were watching the situation in Huntington closely, but it has not happened here in conjunction with that.”

According to Roberts, Akron, Ohio had nearly the same amount of cases last week.

“It’s happening all over the place, but it’s very random,” Roberts said. “There’s just no way to really predict it.”

Roberts said she had just checked EpiCenter. EpiCenter is Ohio’s statewide syndromic surveillance system used by state and local public health agencies to detect, track and characterize health events such as pandemic influenza, outbreaks, environmental exposures and potential bioterrorism in real-time. The system gathers de-identified information on patient symptoms and automatically alerts public health when an unusual pattern or trend is occurring.

“We’re able to get in there and see what’s happening at the Emergency Department,” Roberts said. She said that because a strain of Fentanyl suddenly rears its ugly head in Huntington, does not mean that same mixture will be on the streets of Scioto County.

“The drug supply for Huntington tends to come from the same places that our drug supply comes from but there’s multiple, multiple, multiple suppliers in that chain,” Roberts said. “So there’s really no way to predict that if one area has a sudden increase in overdoses such as Fentanyl being added or Carfentanyl, which is even worse, that that will happen locally.”

Carfentanil or Carfentanyl (Wildnil) is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl. It is one of the most potent opioids known and the most potent used commercially. There was recently a seizure of Carfentanyl in Canada, an elephant tranquilizer that had the potency to wipe out the entire country of Canada.

“We’ve done this is in a real professional manner and we just keep watching the situation get worse,” Scioto County Health Commissioner, Dr. Aaron Adams, said. “And we have people that have no other opportunities but to sell drugs – or at least they think that – and this is where the culture is leading us to. We have to protect our families from this and protect our communities from it.”

Adams said the drug problem has permeated the entire community.

“We have law enforcement that is out there every day trying to make a difference and then they face condemnation,” Adams said. “We really have some big challenges ahead.”

What can be done to curb the problem?

“The best thing that we can do is get these people that are addicted into a comprehensive addiction treatment program and really really reduce the demand for this thing because it’s just becoming more and more potent and more and more deadly and more and more random,” Roberts said. “People who normally use opiates don’t have any idea that this next shipment may be the one that kills them very quick. This Fentanyl out there is 10,000 times more potent than morphine so it just takes very very little and then the window of opportunity to even intervene smaller. It could actually kill them in minutes.”

By Frank Lewis|Reporter

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.