Opioid overdoses taking toll on first responders

Lane Life has answered 75 overdose calls since Jan. 1; There have been 16 calls in March, including three Friday night

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A rash of opioid overdoses has swept through the Valley this month, with Trumbull County seeing more than 55 cases since March 1.

While these overdoses are impacting families and hospitals, they’re also affecting the first responders who revive the drug users.

Randy Pugh, vice president of Lane Life Trans, said Saturday he hears overdose-related calls several times a day.

Lane Life has answered 75 overdose calls since Jan. 1. There have been 16 calls so far in March — including three Friday night.

“Some days you may actually have multiple calls that you’re going on one right after the other,” Pugh said. “And they’re all overdoses.”

On March 7, there were 12 overdoses in 24 hours in Trumbull County, resulting in one death.

April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said this month has been particularly bad.

“We’ve had 55 overdoses so far in the month of March that we know of,” Caraway said. “These are people who are actually getting to the hospital after they’ve been brought back by Project DAWN and getting help.”

Calls are increasing and so is the amount of Naloxone being used to reverse the overdoses.

“It used to be within a minute or two,” Pugh said. “You used to be able to get somebody up with 4-8 milligrams. Now we’re seeing 12 [or] 16.”

First responders are exposed to traumatic situations multiple times a day.

Pugh said he checks in with his employees frequently and sends them to be counseled by crisis intervention teams when necessary.

“If we see that they are developing a problem, one of our supervisors may bring it to us so we can get them the help that they need,” Pugh said.

Pugh doesn’t foresee an end to the heroin epidemic in the Valley. He says all first responders can do is keep doing their jobs and try to save as many people as they can.

“There’s always been overdoses,” Pugh said. “But I think, hopefully, we can get this under control one day.”