It’s obvious drugs take a toll on our communities. But the numbers show the situation is getting dramatically worse.
Of course, friends and family are devastated when an addict dies from an overdose.
But from the first on scene to the last stop for a deceased body, ODs are an incredible burden on service providers.
Sgt. Randal Koubeck has worked for the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department for more than two decades.
But recently, it seems like a different place.
In 2015, Lorain County 911 received 149 drug-related calls. In 2016, that number surged to 499. In January of this year, they received 82 drug-related calls.
“We see some of these people over and over again,” said Sgt. Koubeck.
Many of these people are dying. In 2011, Lorain County saw just 21 OD deaths.
That number climbed to the mid-60s for the next four years. Then in 2016, it shot to 130.
The medical examiner attributes the spike to fentanyl and other drugs now commonly mixed with heroin.
The issue has a huge impact on the department. On average, five officers patrol per shift and at least two units respond to the report of an OD. That leaves the remaining officers to cover more than 350 square miles.
Koubeck said there’s also an emotional toll.
“We’ve had DOAs when the needle’s still in the arm,” he said.
DOA stands for dead on arrival.
In Cuyahoga County, overdose deaths are increasing, as well. In 2015, 370 people died from a drug overdose. In 2016, that number nearly doubled to 608.
When there’s an OD, the Medical Examiner’s Office is the last stop before the cemetery. Summit County ME, Dr. Lisa Kohler, has a front row seat to this heroin crisis.
“It’s been a bit of a hardship, because not only have we had a significant increase in the number of cases we’re dealing with, but actually our staffing is down,” she said.
In 2013, the Summit County ME handled about 100 drug overdoses with three doctors. Last year, that number increased to roughly 200 with just two doctors handling the caseload. In 2017, they anticipate working 250 drug overdoses.
“We’re doing repeat service. We’re going to the same home. We had one child two months ago, the second child is deceased now. Or we’ve taken care of the parents and then the kids,” said Dr. Kohler.
She knows hospitals, paramedics, fire departments and children’s services see that same sad scenario.
“Just like anyone who’s on the front lines, it is taking a toll. It’s a physically demanding job. It’s emotionally and mentally demanding to be dealing with this kind of a burden,” she said.
For first responders and last stops, it’s a tragic trend with no end in sight.