heroin

Firefighting is far more than putting out blazes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s not enough anymore for firefighters to just battle blazes. For years, they donned protective gear to extinguish burning structures. They have handled hazardous material spills on highways and railways. And they trained to respond to meth labs. But now, firefighters from big cities to small town volunteer departments have to prepare to handle a deadly threat that is so small they may not even be able to see it. On Saturday, volunteer firefighters from throughout Northwest Ohio learned how they can keep themselves safe as they respond the heroin crisis in the state. They were reminded of Ohio’s dubious distinction of having the second most opiate overdose deaths, with more than 5,200 last year. Drugs like heroin, cocaine and counterfeit prescription pills are now commonly laced with fentanyl to increase potency. Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled if it becomes airborne. A speck the size of a few grains of salt can potentially kill a 250-pound man. Many volunteer firefighters – who are willing to respond to fires and accidents in the middle of the night – didn’t sign up for this. But it’s now part of the job, explained Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert, who serves as co-chair of the fire school. During one fire school class on Saturday, a firefighter from rural Williams County said he was on three runs involving heroin over a recent weekend. Another firefighter from Archbold talked about responding to a double overdose involving a man and his stepdad. Both men were revived. The stepdad went into treatment, but the son refused treatment and went to prison. “Everybody’s community is affected by this,” said an instructor from the Multi-Area Narcotics Task Force from Northwest Ohio. “A lot of time it’s the same house you go to. The people are overdosing time, after time, after time.” The Good Samaritan Overdose Immunity Law adopted in Ohio in 2016 allows people to report an overdose without fear of facing drug charges. They are given chances to enter treatment programs instead of jail. But on the third call, the immunity – and patience of first responders in some cases – is exhausted. The more than 400 firefighters attending the weekend fire school held at Bowling Green State University also got refreshers on more traditional topics. They had training sessions on agricultural accidents, medical treatment of pediatrics and geriatrics, search and rescue using a self contained breathing apparatus, water tanker shuttles, fire and explosion investigations, methamphetamine labs, flammable liquid spills, fire search and rescue, silo explosions, and severe weather. Gilbert said he expected another type of training to be added to the fire school’s classes next year – tactical EMS training. This is “unfortunately” becoming necessary as fire and EMS departments respond to mass…


Help for those caught up in opiate epidemic: Call 211

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has all types of services for people dealing with the opiates epidemic – for addicts trying to kick it, for families struggling as they watch, for schools trying to prevent opiate use before it begins, and for physicians who prescribe opiates. But if people aren’t aware of the services – they may as well not exist. So here is the one number they all need to know – 211. “We’ve done a lot to try to reduce the barriers,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. “In a nutshell, 211. Call 211.” Clemons said it became glaringly obvious to him over the last month or two, when a number of local agencies were not aware of the resources open to Wood County residents facing the opiate epidemic. So last week, Clemons and some members of his agency and board met with the county commissioners about helping them reach people in need. “We’re trying to get the word out,” he said. “Help is here.” As an example, Clemons said that Wood County’s recovery housing program for male opiate addicts often has open slots. “A lot of times people are in need, but they aren’t aware of services,” he said. Clemons asked if small brochures, stressing the need to dial 211, could be placed at every desk of county employees who take calls from the public. The brochures are already being carried by law enforcement throughout the county, he said. During the Wood County Fair, information was handed out at several booths. “We also realize we have to go old-school as well,” Clemons said. Three town hall meetings about opiates have been held – in Bowling Green, Perrysburg and North Baltimore. Clemons listed several different approaches in place to attack the opiate issue. “Treatment by itself is inadequate,” he said. Prevention education is offered, including training for teachers. “That’s always the best bang for your buck.” The ADAMHS Board also offers a drug-free workplace program, coordinated by Lorrie Lewandowski, associate director of ADAMHS. Vivitrol programs are offered for opiate addicted inmates who are being released from the Wood County jail and the Northwest Community Corrections Center. The medication blocks the positive feeling the addicts get from opiates, making it easier for them to quit. There is a men’s residential center outside of Cygnet, run by Zepf, and plans are underway for a women’s residential center soon. And a family support group is active in the county. Clemons pointed out that the average number of relapses for opiate addicts trying to quit is seven. “With each one of those relapses, you run the risk of overdoses and death,” he said. “There is no perfect system,” Clemons said. “We’re looking for gaps.” In addition…


‘Did the war on drugs create the opioid crisis?’ – Brad Waltz

By now most all of us know of someone affected by the use of heroin. There is no question that every story surrounding its use is a sad one. This article is by no means meant to distract from or to minimize that. So, we have a opioid epidemic. It’s on the nightly news, well nightly. Mike DeWine is making a gubernatorial run in Ohio based on the tragedies. Congress in late 2016 passed the Cures Act; in it $1 billion is set aside to fight the epidemic over the next two years. The latest Senate Healthcare bill sets aside a massive $45 billion over the next ten years. The money will be used to, among other things, “Encourage the use of additional drug courts.” To, “Work to expand same day services for recovery from substance use disorders and co-occurring related disorders.” So, plainly this must truly be an epidemic. Here are how the numbers shake out. According to the CDC, annually 480,000 people die from the effects of cigarette smoking. I’ve no idea the CDC’s methods of tabulating this. I suspect the numbers are a bit fudged to warrant an anti-smoking campaign slush fund. Annually 88,000 die in alcohol related deaths. Car crashes account for (in 2016) 37,757 deaths 55,000 die annually (on average) from the flu In 2013, 31,959 people died the result of stumbling. This number is expected to grow as our life expectancies continue to rise. So, I ask you, the reader. How many people died from heroin overdoses in 2016? How many people dying (again sadly) warrant more federal power, more taxpayer money- to the tune of $4.5 billion per year, over twice the entire federal budget of Greenland? Must be over a 100,000 right? Or is it more? The Federal government has done nothing in terms of an outright ban on tobacco products and it kills, according to the government- nearly a half million people a year. Granted they tend to be older than the typical overdose from heroin death but the heroin overdose death total must be on par with a legal product like tobacco to warrant such funding and attention. Have your number? 12,989. Now, granted, that is just heroin overdoses. Another 9,580 died from the use of fentanyl and another 17,536 from Oxycodone and Vicodin. In total around 40,000, 15,000 less than die from the flu. 8,000 less than tripped to death. I’m not sure .012% of the population succumbing to an addiction is a textbook definition of an epidemic, I’d prefer the term power grab, an excuse for government to further fund itself. Regardless, what is the solution? I don’t claim to have that answer. I will give you some more numbers. One million doses of morphine is so large a pallet can be used for transportation. One million doses…


Mothers turn tragedy into efforts to help others hooked on heroin

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Sunday will be agonizing for sisters Kat Cordes and Lori Hanway. It will be the first Mother’s Day they spend without their children who both died from heroin overdoses. “She would have been 24 yesterday,” Cordes said of her daughter, Amanda Haas, who died in March at age 23. “We had a birthday cake for her and let balloons go.” Hanway’s son, Thomas Urhammer died in December at age 35. After years of battling heroin, both cousins lost to their fierce addictions. In an effort to find some hope in their losses, the two mothers have planned a memorial benefit and tribute to their children, this Saturday, at the Eagles Club in Bowling Green. The event will raise awareness and funding for Team Recovery, a group that helps opiate users beat their addictions. “It has to be done. It’s getting out of control,” Cordes said of the opiate epidemic. “It helps me. I feel like if I help one person turn their life around, another parent doesn’t have to go through what I did.” Earlier this week, the sisters took turns talking about their children and their heart wrenching losses as they prepared meals at A Taste of Amish Deli, owned by Hanway in Bowling Green. Cordes said Amanda first started taking heroin when she began dating someone around age 17. “It started as snorting. When that wasn’t a good enough high, they went to IV drug use,” she said. Cordes and her husband soon realized valuables were taken from their home. “I started noticing things missing to support their habits.” Gone were her jewelry, wedding ring, TV and tools. She also noticed a personality change in Amanda. “She was so smart. All her friends asked her to do their math,” her mom said, with tears rolling down her face. The family lives on a farm, and Amanda was a big-hearted animal lover. “She wanted to let the animals go.” “That happens. It turns them into different people,” Cordes said. “She would get clean for a little bit. She’d go to rehab and it always went back to the same thing. It was too strong for her. She couldn’t get away from it. It was heartbreaking. Still is.” “I always envied moms who had great relationships with their daughters. I haven’t had that for so long,” she said, wiping tears. Hanway’s son, Thomas was a jack-of-all-trades with talents in woodworking, carpentry, painting and home renovating. He was a good cook and excelled in hockey when he was younger. “He’d go out of his way to help anyone,” his mom said. Like many, he struggled for years with the addiction. “He was in and out of out-patient services,” Hanway said. “He was going to get help after Christmas, but he died before he…


More children becoming victims of parent opiate abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not long ago, an 8-year-old girl was taken into custody by Wood County Children’s Services knowing how to shoot up heroin. The girl hadn’t done it herself, but she had watched her mom do it in the car, using the seatbelt to tie off her arm. The young girl was one of many taken in by Children’s Services last year due to the opioid epidemic. “There are kids who have witnessed overdoses. We’ve had some who have witnessed their parents die,” said Brandy Laux, assessment supervisor at Wood County Children’s Services. The number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted in Wood County by Children’s Services jumped from 718 in 2015 to 894 in 2016. Many of those cases were due to parents abusing opioids, said Sandi Carsey, protective services administrator for the county. At least a third of the cases have been related to heroin and opiate abuse – though it’s probably higher than that, according to both Carsey and Laux. Wood County’s numbers are actually lower than some counties in southern Ohio, where pill mills were located. Opioids are involved in an estimated 80 percent of the cases in some of those counties. The addicts come in all socio-economic groups. “It’s not just the lower income families,” Carsey said. “It’s soccer moms, too.” And because heroin and opiates are so hard to kick, the children are likely to be removed from their homes. “In the last year, year and a half, we’ve had a lot more kids go to relatives,” Carsey said. Normally, Children’s Services works with the parents to make the home safe for the children and keep families together. However, that often isn’t possible in cases where opioids are involved. “They have so much bigger issues,” and in most cases the opioid-addicted parents aren’t going to make the changes needed to get their children returned. “We consider heroin cases more severe,” Laux said. “It’s easier for people to overdose and harder for people to kick.” In most of the cases involving opioids, it’s not that the parents overtly abuse their children – they neglect them, which can also have dangerous outcomes especially for very young children. “When using opiates, they can’t parent,” Carsey said. “They’re not capable of making safe decisions for their children. The younger the children are, the more vulnerable they are.” “They can’t fend for themselves,” Laux said of the younger children. When their parents are high, they can’t make dinner. They can’t change a dirty diaper. The parents may pawn or sell family items to get money for drugs. Often times, both parents in a family are addicted. In one case, Children’s Services had placed the child with a grandmother, who later was found to be using opioids as well. The agency has also…