During one of the largest heroin overdose epidemics in nearly two years, Dayton police have responded to 21 overdose calls in a week, three of which were fatal. The majority of the victims lived because police officers and medics who responded were armed with narcan, which reverses the effects of opiates, officials said.
Six of the 21 overdoses happened Wednesday night. Dayton police officers used narcan on one of those victims, a man found slumped over the wheel of a vehicle on West First Street. They revived him, and medics revived a woman with him using narcan. Since police first administered narcan in September, they’ve saved 52 lives, said Dayton police Lt. James Mullins.
“There is no question the fatality rate would have been much higher than three over the past (week) with the rash of OD’s had it not been for the (officers) uses of narcan during this time,” Mullins said.
But narcan is only the beginning of helping addicts following an overdose. Since 2013, officers and detectives have maintained a list of addicts. There are about 900 names on the list so far, and many of those people are repeat offenders, said Maj. Brian Johns.
Officers use that list to refer addicts to assistance programs, such as Conversation for Change. The program connects people with rehabilitation services, counseling, financial aid and more, and teaches family members how to use narcan. A session was held at the East End Community Center Thursday, and four more are scheduled this year.
“Our idea was how can we actually get these people into a room and have a conversation about their addiction,” Johns said. “What we found is a lot of people actually didn’t know what is out there for recovery.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin addicts relapse eight to 10 times before achieving sobriety. That means accessing the right resources and building a “road map toward recovery” is vital — and starts with the addict, Johns said.
“Ultimately it comes down to the person using drugs saying, ‘you know I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired and I want to try and get help for this,” he said.
To sign up for the next Conversation for Change session, call the East End Community Center at (937) 259-1898.