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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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        A public forum featuring a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic drew about 100 people to the auditorium at the Northwood Schools, Arts, Athletics and Administration Building on Lemoyne Road on Oct. 26 to hear about drug addiction that is destroying lives across the country.

        The panel included representatives from Bay Park Hospital, law enforcement, first responders, a recovering addict, and a couple who lost their son to an overdose.

        A common theme throughout the discussion was the significance of raising public awareness and removing the stigma associated with heroin addiction.

        Brett Tscherne, emcee of the forum, recounted how he was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from a family member this year to inform him that his cousin had died.

        “Not only was I overwhelmed and blindsided by his passing, but there was the stigma you associate with someone who is on heroin. It’s huge,” said Tscherne, a board member of the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the forum. “It’s here. It’s in our neighborhoods, our backyards, in our families.”

         Opioid overdoses “is something our EMS, our first responders, our care teams, are seeing on a day to day basis at an unbelievable rate,” added Tscherne, director of Eggleston Meinert & Pavley Funeral Home.

       

Out there

        Denny Hartman, deputy chief in the Oregon Fire/Rescue division, said opiate addiction is in every community.

        Hartman was the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District chief prior to becoming deputy chief in Oregon earlier this year.

        “I have two different perspectives - coming from a smaller community and then going into a bigger city. The only thing that’s different is the volume of runs. It’s still the same situation, whether you’re in a small community or a bigger community. Obviously, we see it more in Oregon than in Williston or Genoa. But it’s out there. It’s absolutely out there,” said Hartman.

        Opioid overdoses are seen in both lower and upper income neighborhoods, he said.

        “We see it in homes where typically we are not surprised, and we’re seeing it in half a million dollar homes of executives,” he said. “It’s pretty stunning.”

        First responders are struggling emotionally dealing with the increase in overdoses they see.

        “It’s very difficult because there is so much of it,” he said.

        It’s much easier for emergency personnel to treat an elderly patient who “dies with their boots on” compared to a young person who had their whole lives ahead of them, he said.

        “It’s much easier to take than a 26-year-old whose two kids are sitting there wondering what’s wrong with Mommy.”

       

People we know

        Kelly Druckenmiller, manager of the ER at Bay Park Hospital, said opioid addiction is “near and dear to our hearts.”

        “We’re in nursing to make sure we do our best for our families, for our patients. And we want to see everybody have a good outcome.” Unfortunately, she added, that’s not always the case.

        She said addiction is so prevalent, “we see people we know” in the ER.

        “We see it affect kids, and we see it affect our kids’ friends,” she said.

        Nate Kehlmeier, director of admissions and development at Midwest Recovery Center, is a 35 year old recovering opioid addict. His addiction started at the age of 21. His recovery started in 2008.

        The addiction started with a prescription for the pain killer vicodin when he hurt his ankle. It progressed to Percocet prescribed by three different doctors.

        “It then progressed to OxyContin. When OxyContin became too expensive, I was introduced to heroin,” said Kehlmeier, a 2000 graduate of Genoa High School.

        “I used heroin for many years. I grew up in small town Genoa. I ended up homeless in Toledo,” he said.

        “I had a lot of ups and downs when I was using,” he continued. “It took something drastic for me to stop. The last day I used I got shot at and almost got killed. It opened my eyes. I’ve been sober ever since that day. I’m very blessed.”

        In addition to being director of admissions and development at Midwest Recovery Center in Maumee, he’s a member of Team Recovery, which is a non-profit group in Toledo; a board member of Clean Start, a non-profit in Cleveland that helps addicts; part of the Wood County Opiate Task Force, and the Ottawa County Opiate Collaborative.

        “I do a lot of work in the community,” he said, “to help fight this epidemic. I’ve worked in the treatment field for nine years. I’ve never seen it as bad as it is right now.”

        Families don’t want to talk about the epidemic, he added, because “there’s a lot of stigma.”

        “People think there aren’t resources. But there are resources out there.”

        Aaron Leist, a detective with the Lake Township Police Department, said about 70 percent of calls at the peak of the addiction crisis in 2013-2014 were opiate related.

        “You have to think outside of just drug overdoses that we respond to. There’s a lot more that goes into that. You have property crimes, breaking into houses, and stealing batteries from vehicles. Those people were doing that to come up with funds to buy drugs,” he said.

        The numbers have dropped, he added, due to a more aggressive prosecution of those crimes.

       

Unproven

        Hartman said there are about 3-5 calls per week for probable heroin overdoses in Oregon.

        “There are different reasons that people would be unresponsive. I can’t give you a hard number - probably in the range of 3-5 per week in which we are administering Narcan,” he said of the medication used to block the effects of opioids in overdoses. “That doesn’t mean it was necessarily a heroin overdose because most people will deny that’s what it was, and we can’t prove it,” he said.

        When asked what people should do if they see someone who has overdosed on drugs, Hartman advised calling 911, then rendering aid in respiratory and cardiac arrest.

        Maintaining their airway is crucial in an unconscious person, he said.

        “Airway is the number one thing. Nobody lives without an airway. Oftentimes, people will stop breathing but have a strong pulse. In that case, if you are comfortable with it – perform rescue breathing. Nine times out of ten, cardiac arrest in an overdose is caused by respiratory arrest or lack of breathing,” he said.

        CPR should be attempted in cardiac arrest, he added. “Even if you’re not trained in CPR, if their heart is not beating, do what you can. Everyone has seen it on TV – push hard and fast. Keeping the blood flow gives them the opportunity to stay alive. It’s the only chance they have.”

       

Loss of son

        John and Laurie Clemons, of Lake Township, talked about the loss of their 30-year-old son, Brandon, who died of a drug overdose in 2015.

        “We were kind of blindsided by this,” said Laurie. “Did I ever think Brandon could put a needle in his arm? No. We weren’t very educated about this. We had to learn a lot fast.”

        Their son went to Florida for treatment of his addiction and had been clean for five weeks. Friends “triggered” a relapse. When he overdosed, they didn’t call 911.

        “Instead, the one called his mother. And she drove him to the hospital,” she said.

        “I wouldn’t wish this on any parent. The most important thing right now we all need to do is educate ourselves, our families, loved ones, so we can break this stigma and more parents can speak,” she said.

        Brandon’s father John also said it is important to “bring awareness” to the problem.

        “We can only fight this as a community, and that’s everybody – law enforcement, clergy, service providers, the schools,” he said.

        When Brandon was dropped off at Bay Park Hospital, John said the surveillance video showed he had “appeared unconscious and had a blue hue to his skin.”

        Hospital security told John that the people who had dropped off Brandon had refused to provide personal information about themselves, he said.

        Two people who were involved with Brandon that night were convicted and sentenced, he added. Det. Leist led the investigation.

        John supports legislation, such as House Bill 141, which makes people who deal and distribute controlled substances that cause the death of another liable for involuntary manslaughter.

        “Addicts are human beings. They deserve the right to live,” he said.

       

       

        

 

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