Members of the Medina County Opiate Task Force discuss issues at their meeting Friday at the Medina County Health Department in Medina. Updates from subcommittee meetings were discussed. The group first met in February. ASHLEY FOX / GAZETTE
MEDINA — Reported drug overdoses in Medina County are on pace with last year, and officials say they are especially watching what will happen from July through September.
Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force, said the summer months see higher overdose cases reported, so officials are “waiting to see” what occurs in 2017.
Hubbard gave a report Friday along with several others at the second meeting of the Medina County Opiate Task Force.
Hubbard said figures to date taken from police incident reports show
125 overdoses and 25 deaths.
He did not disclose figures for the first six months of last year, but said for all of 2016, there were 260 overdoses in police reports. Previous reports said 34 deaths last year were attributed as “suspected” from drug abuse.
An exact number for 2016 could be “tremendously higher” Hubbard said, because it’s unknown how many overdoses were not reported and naloxone was administered without authorities being informed.
The task force is made up of officials from more than a dozen organizations including elected government leaders, school districts, county charities, the health department, treatment centers, the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement.
Hubbard did not disclose a statistical breakdown, but said in general, authorities are seeing more overdose cases occurring in vehicles — both drivers and passengers.
As recently as Thursday in Wadsworth, Hubbard said, a person overdosed in a moving vehicle and hit a truck head-on.
“They Narcan’d him,” Hubbard said, “went to the hospital, he was released, and a half-hour later they were responding to his house because he overdosed again.”
In a reported overdose call in Brunswick last week, Hubbard said that 16 antidote doses of naloxone were administered to “bring a person back.”
The average case of antidotes administered is now six, Hubbard said. “It’s not just one anymore.”
Krista Wasowski, health commissioner for the Medina County Health Department, said that when law enforcement departments pick up their first-response packs, multiple doses of the antidote are given because the demand has risen.
The task force’s chairman, Phillip Titterington, who is also director of the Medina County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Board, told the 40 members that 12 subcommittees created during the first meeting in February that they were “taking ownership.”
“We wanted this to be your task force,” Titterington said.
Meeting minutes will be available here. The next Opiate Task Force meeting will be Oct. 27.
Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson spoke about his office’s mailing of “Narcan letters.”
In September 2016, a state law began requiring prosecutors to send a letter to recipients of a naloxone antidote from first responders within 30 days of an incident.
The letter explains that if an individual seeks treatment within 30 days, he or she is immune from prosecution for that incident.
“I take a very conservative view of that statute,” Thompson shared, noting there are other “more relaxed” interpretations.
Thompson said he believes if the individual is immune from prosecution after seeking treatment within 30 days, the individual should not be charged, for example, with possession of paraphernalia.
The treatment facility or the individual is to contact the prosecutor’s office with information about a treatment plan.
A failure to follow the rules of the “Narcan letter” means people will be charged criminally “like everyone else,” he said.
Thompson was asked about a scenario in which an individual might wait to call at 4:45 p.m. on the 29th day. Would that count as seeking treatment?
“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If I don’t have a letter of confirmation from an accredited facility for treatment, then I’m not considering it seeking treatment.”
He noted there could be circumstances in which a treatment facility would contact the prosecutor to report a person reached out for treatment and is on a wait list.
“I don’t think the statute should be (affected) by bureaucracy. I don’t think it’s fair for somebody that’s on a waiting list not to have been considered for treatment purposes,” he said.
Thompson said his office had 15 cases in the last three months where no confirmation of treatment service was received.
“We are in the process” of reviewing those cases, he said, to determine whether charges will be filed.
Thompson said that sometimes police officers have good intentions and tell individuals they have 30 days to seek treatment.
He said his office is working with police to ensure that copies of the statute are given out.
Sharon Danko, administrator of the Medina County Juvenile Court, asked if the statute applies to juveniles as well as adults.
Thompson said the statute does not distinguish between juveniles and adults, but he considers its effect to be the same.
Danko said she was aware of reports of a person being administered naloxone and several days later law enforcement responds to another overdose call, reviving the same individual.
Thompson said he believes a letter for each incident should be given. “I know it’s redundant and I know it seems almost impractical, but if we take a conservative review of the statute, I don’t think we have a choice.”
The prosecutor said his staff is working toward having one person handling cases involving the letter statute.
- When a person begins looking for treatment options, they “are going to be scheduled for a bio-psycho-social assessment,” said Mark Trew, chief executive officer of Alternative Paths Inc.
The assessment evaluates mental health and substance abuse treatment needs as well as treatment and abuse history, legal and home history and home environment.
- Titterington said the Medina County ADAMH board offers a text line for people in crisis, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People may text “HOME” to 741741. More information is available here.
Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or email@example.com.