At the Middletown, Ohio fire department, calls for actual fires are rare. These days the station responds to more calls for drug overdoses — four to five a day on average.
Firefighter Bryan Oliver goes on a lot of these runs. Oliver and his team administer Naloxone and then perform CPR. He says they may treat the same patient for multiple overdoses, sometimes in the same day.
“Anybody you talk to who does this job will tell you it’s frustrating and you put that to the side because you have a job to do,” he says.
Opioid overdoses continue to rise and for many cities and towns, the epidemic is starting to affect their bottom line. Middleton, population 48,791, has already seen nearly 600 overdoses this year — that’s more than it saw in all of 2016.
Now Middletown city councilman Dan Picard has made a startling proposal. He’s suggested a three strikes rule: overdose two times and the third time medics may not respond. If overdoses continue at this rate, Picard says they won’t be able to afford to provide emergency services.
“If we don’t do anything the city’s going to run out of money,” he says.
Each dose of Naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, cost about $36 and, depending on the potency of the opioid, one patient may require several doses. The department estimates it will spend up to $90,000 on Naloxone this year —that’s 50 percent more than their entire budget for all the medications aboard their ambulances.
Picard says that’s not the only cost. He calculates that each overdose run cost the city $1,104. He counts the wear on the ambulance, the cost of drugs and the medics’ time.
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