Working Together Just First Piece of Solving Opioid Epidemic Puzzle

Updated 1 year ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Working Together Just First Piece of Solving Opioid Epidemic Puzzle

Huntington is not alone in its struggles with heroin and opioids. It's not alone either in the establishment of programs and other resources to bring together community members for relieving the crisis.

Huntington has seen a surge in overdoses despite the efforts established last year following a series of forums and public education.

Consider Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania.  During 2016 that county instituted a substance abuse hotline, drug court, prescription monitoring for multiple painkillers, and first responders and schools now carry Narcan.

Still, Fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased an astounding 364 percent from 2015 to 2016 and heroin overdoses  increased 68 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha recently released a report indicating increased momentum in OD deaths and incidents.

Reported by Ashlie Hardway from Action News 4 in Pittsburgh, Bacha summarized that fentanyl " kills people at astronomical rate."

"You don't know what the strength of it is, either. Is it cut with other agents? Is it heroin? Is it fentanyl? Is it heroin with fentanyl in it? You have no clue. There's no quality control," Bacha said. "The numbers we're getting back from toxicology are off the charts. You could die with as low as three nanograms (of fentanyl in the blood). The average we're seeing is eight (nanograms). We've had them up to 139 (nanograms) -- that's enough to kill six horses."

Has the county seen "light at the end of the tunnel?"  No, " we're seeing the tunnel yet," and  Tim Phillips, with the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force, added  imagine how high they would be if none of the programs had been instituted.

Both men now emphasize educating parents , even those who have not experienced substance abuse by a close family member to become aggressively involved --- they are still impacted since taxpayer money accompanies investigation of each overdose and administration of Narcan.

Westmoreland County has in 2017 , 48 suspected and four confirmed OD deaths. The pace puts the rural towns and townships on pace for more than 200 deaths.

One of the ways of involvement is learning what to do when you see an OD occur.

Saving someone from an opiate overdose, however, requires quick reaction. According to the CDC, over half of all overdose deaths are directly related to prescription opioids and the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports heroin-related deaths have increased five-fold over the last 10 years. Since both of these opiates have a depressant effect, the same intervention tactics are applicable in the event of an overdose.

Fear often prevents observers from doing anything. They may ignore or run away. Since respiratory failure kills, the very least is to alert 911 of the location of the fallen individual so they can help. Many states have Good Samaritan laws to cover actions taken in such an emergency.


1. Check Responsiveness

2. Perform Rescue Breathing

3. Administer Naloxone






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