Overdoes calls in Springfield are down significantly compared to a year ago.
Springfield police responded to 795 overdoes in 2017 but are on track to respond to 242 this year — a 70 percent decrease.
“No matter what happens, I think we are looking at a dramatic reduction,” Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said.
Clark County commissioners and Springfield city commissioner met Tuesday morning in what was the first formal combined meeting of the two bodies in years. The main discussion topic was the opioid issue in Springfield.
“During the (city commission) campaign last year, there was a clear demand from the community that these two key institutions of government should be working together to address some of the issues before it,” Springfield Commissioner David Estrop said.
Working together will help residents in the area, he said.
“The ability of governments and other organization to respond by working together is essential because the truth of it is the people who are involved in the illegal drug trade are working together,” Estrop said.
Graf, Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett, Springfield Fire/Rescue Division Chief Brian Miller, Mental Health, Recovery Board Executive Director Greta Mayer and Ruth Shade with the Springfield Regional Medical Center spoke at the meeting.
The drug epidemic has already brought many agencies together, Mayer said, and continuing that trend is important.
“We are all working together and trying to figure out how to best utilize local resources,” she said.
The Springfield Fire/Rescue Division also has gone to fewer calls this year, Miller said.
“We have an 80 percent reduction in the number of overdose calls than we did just one year ago.” Miller said. “It means all these collective efforts are working.”
However he warned that the decrease doesn’t mean there isn’t an opioid problem in Clark County.
“Narcan is now widely available on the street,” Miller said. “And we are not getting some of the data because no public safety agency is called to the scene. They are medicated privately. So that does kind of cloud our numbers a little bit.”
Other drugs also might be becoming more prevalent in the community, Estrop said.
“I am cautioned by the fact that some are turning to other illegal drugs — meth and crack cocaine,” he said. “Yes, I’m delighted that the numbers are coming down in terms of deaths and overdoses but I am concerned. Are we solving the issue or are we changing the drug choice?”
Another reason people might be turning away from heroin is that there is uncertainty about whether the drug is what it’s being marketed as by drug dealers, Graf said.
“There is a real fear in the community from the people are using drugs about the possibility of using what they think is heroin — is it heroin or is it fentanyl?” he said.
Illicit fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and was connected to many of the drug deaths last year.
Deputies and police plan to work together more on their drug investigations, Burchett said.
Anything that can be done to help fight the drug epidemic is a good thing for the Clark County Jail, Burchett said, as the jail is overcrowded and drugs play a big role in that.
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