TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Toledo first responders are on the front line of the heroin epidemic. These men and women are frequently faced with situations where they must act quickly to bring a person back to life following an overdose.
Lt. Matt Hertzfeld with Toledo Fire and Rescue Department says the problem has grown so significantly, that his crew's Narcan usage in the streets has increased by three times in the last two to three years.
Narcan is a nasal spray form of naloxone used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose.
"There's about 200 of our firefighters that are paramedics, but with Narcan and this heroin epidemic we now have moved to a position where even our basic EMTs can administer Narcan prior to the arrival of the paramedics," Hertzfeld said.
It's quick action these responders have to make when they get to a scene and find a person unconscious. Hertzfeld says many times the call is not dispatched as an overdose, so they aren't sure what they're walking into.
He said part of their protocol is to administer the Narcan to any person that is found unconscious and if there's a positive effect, then it's a pretty good indicator that it was in fact an overdose.
There is little to no effect if the person is given Narcan and have not used an opioid-based drug.
Although, Hertzfeld says more times than not, it is an overdose situation.
"It is in many cases. Not just weekly, sometimes it's daily for a lot of our crews, and sometimes it's patients we've seen before, locations that they've been to before, so this has really crept into our city at epidemic levels," Hertzfeld says.
First responders are working to get the word out about the dangers of opioid use through billboards, commercials and radio ads. However, Hertzfeld knows it will take much more to fight this problem.
"I think the first thing any of us can do is be understanding," says Hertzfeld. "It's easy to look at an epidemic like this and say they just need to stop doing it, not realizing the stronghold this drug can get on someone's life."
It's a concern that affects all walks of life, and not just in Toledo, but all over the country.
"This drug crosses all social and economic lines. There's no one immune to this," Hertzfeld said. "It's touched all of us in some way, shape or form. There's help out there."
The Sheriff has instituted a program to help those who ask for it, and there are plenty of counseling services available.
However, Hertzfeld believes in order to overcome this, it begins with open and honest conversation in the home with family members and children.
It's entirely a community epidemic that has to be fought together.