Successive waves of drug overdoses in Clark County have overwhelmed first responders and filled emergency rooms as ever-more potent opioids flood the region.
Between April 3 and April 7, the Springfield Regional Medical Center treated at least 40 overdose patients, according to the hospital. Last week, Springfield police responded to 19 overdoses in 25 hours between Thursday and Friday morning. The onslaught continued with another wave of 20 overdoses between Friday and Saturday mornings, according to Anita Biles, spokeswoman for the Clark County Combined Health District.
Health authorities suspect a stronger, different batch of illicit fentanyl has reached the streets.
“The best message at this point is for people to watch their loved ones very closely,” said Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson.
The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office has established rules for local residents as part of the state’s 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law, which provides immunity to people seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose within 30 days.
Here are three major signs of the epidemic’s deepening impact on Clark County:
1. Police calls: As of Wednesday, the Springfield Police Division had responded to 317 overdose calls this year, according to statistics from the Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Support Coalition.
2. Emergency department visits: Springfield Regional Medical Center typically treats four overdose patients a day, but it’s now not uncommon for the hospital to receive a dozen or more a day.
As of last week, the hospital had recorded at least 480 drug-related cases this year, said Community Mercy Health Partners Spokesman Dave Lamb.
3. Rising death toll: The county recorded 79 drug deaths in all of 2016, a majority attributed to heroin and fentanyl. As of Monday, the unconfirmed number for 2017 has already reached 42, according to the coroner’s office.
Nearly 500 people have died of drug overdoses in Clark County since 1998, according to coroner’s office records. More than half of those people — 265 — died in the past five years, the result of the opioid epidemic.