Board Of Health Hiring Injury Prevention Coordinator
The Miami County Public Health Department is working with emergency squads across the county to get better data on overdoses taking place as the numbers in data already collected continue to rise dramatically.
At the same time the county Board of Health that oversees Public Heath’s operations has approved the hiring of an injury prevention coordinator who will develop and implement education programs relating to opioid abuse prevention, said Dennis Propes, county health commissioner.
The employee also will work with analyzing data and working closely with the community opioid activities including the county Heroin Coalition.
The board approved the hiring in January after a request for a grant for the position was not awarded, Propes said.
“The board felt the position was much needed and those efforts are very valuable so they have allowed us to move forward on the position,” Propes said. Hopes are the employee will be on board in the next month or two.
The hiring comes as the Heroin Coalition and others continue to address the opioid abuse situation that Propes said is hard to describe.
“It is a crazy problem that we are trying to wrap our hands around and gain a little bit of control over,” he said
Propes said the latest data available on overdoses showed in January 2014 that 15 people overdosed in Miami County followed by 29 for January 2015 and 61 in January 2016. This January, the number grew to 102. Those numbers, Propes said, are based on people who present at the hospital and based on zip codes of their addresses.
The numbers, he cautioned, do not include those who may receive Narcan from a rescue squad and then refuse treatment or transport to a hospital.
To get more complete numbers, emergency squads across the county are being asked to keep track and report those who receive Narcan but are not transported. “We are trying to get a better handle of what is going on,” Propes said.
The department as of Feb.13 had received only one week of data with some departments reporting and others still deciding on the request.
The Troy Fire Department in January had three cases of a person receiving Narcan but then not going to the hospital, Fire Chief Matt Simmons said. The department in January had a total of 24 suspected overdoses, including the three not transported.
“The problem is probably much bigger,” Simmons said of heroin/opioid addiction, noting those who are using but not overdosing.
The Troy Fire Department also is part of a pilot Quick Response Team (QRT) whose members visit those who have recently overdosed on heroin to see if they are interested in receiving help for their addition. The team includes a firefighter/paramedic, a police officer, an addiction specialist from the Miami County Recovery Council and at times a representative of the faith-based community.
The QRT was initiated in mid-October and attempted to contact 83 people between then and year’s end, Simmons said.
QRT members spoke with 28 victims in addition to family members or friends of other victims who were not home when the visit was made. Of those victims with whom direct contact was made, three completed some form of drug assessment at the time of contact; five sought out and completed assessments at a later date; and seven others requested faith-based support.
Along with the increase in overdoses, the county also is seeing a rise in the number of Hepatitis C cases. In 2014, 87 cases were reported followed by 100 in 2015 and 127 last year.
“We have seen the huge increase in Hepatitis C because of sharing of needles. It is very, very expensive to treat,” Propes said.
The department is among the players in the more than year old county Heroin Coalition.
“You are fighting an uphill battle,” Propes said. “It is exceedingly frustrating. We all have our hands full.”