The Springfield Fire/Rescue Division averages about seven calls for overdoses per day, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Miller said.
The epidemic affects the mental health of local firefighters and law enforcement, Springfield Firefighter/Paramedic Becca Anderson said.
When she began her career in Springfield six years ago, an overdose was a rare occurrence. Now her station runs on multiple overdoses per day, including for some people she’s revived with Narcan multiple times, Anderson said.
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“We see young and old, male and female and people from all races and walks of life,” she said.
Anderson, a mother of two, was on duty on Mother’s Day. The first overdose run of the day saw two young men who were dead, she said.
“My first thought was how needless these deaths were,” she said, “and my second thought was for their mothers.”
The 16 beds will be located in two duplexes on West Mulberry Street. The duplexes will serve both men and women who have recently come out of jail or a treatment center.
One of the houses will be for transitional housing, while the other home will be for longer-term housing, said Corina Bowen, Sim Bowen’s wife. The group will provide mentors to help addicts re-enter society, as well as get a job, task force member Jim Britton said.
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The coalition will have another meeting between the churches on July 9, Corina Bowen said. Several large churches in Springfield are involved, including First Christian, Fellowship, Grace Lutheran and St. John’s Missionary Baptist churches.
“We want not only the Christian community working together, but we’d love to see these people getting jobs and being a productive member of society rather than wreaking havoc on our society,” Sim Bowen said.
It will cost about $25 per day per individual, Corina Bowen said, or up to $146,000 annually for 16 individuals to live there year-round. The churches will cover the cost through fundraising.
The task force is working with similar organizations, such as The Refuge in Columbus, that perform similar duties.
“They’re already having success,” Corina Bowen said.
RELATED: New program seeks to reach Clark County overdose patients, save lives
After being in jail, it’s easy for addicts to resume their lifestyle, Corina Bowen said, especially if they’ve burned bridges with their family.
“The streets will take them back,” she said. “It’s not safe for them to go back and it’s not healthy for their family. This will be a safe place for them to come and have a restart.”
Springfield resident and Celebrating Recovery House task member force Heather Fancett recently lost her 31-year-old son, Nathan Williams, to an overdose on March 31. The family tried and tried to help him, she said.
“Ultimately you have to remember that it’s their choice,” Fancett said. “If they choose not to take the help, then you can’t really do a whole lot about it except to continue to pray.”
Despite his addiction, she said he was still involved in the church.
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“It was like he was walking a fence, half was in this world and half was in that world,” Fancett said.
She believes her son’s last time doing drugs was likely a last hurrah, she said. He had recently been accepted into the Jeremiah Tree in Xenia, which works with the homeless, addicted and impoverished.
“It didn’t happen,” she said. “I think he said, ‘I’m going to do this one last time,’ and it was a failed time.”
While Fancett is still grieving her son, she joined the task force to have an impact on the community. If it can help one person, she said it’s a success.
“He can’t be here to participate in this and be a part of it, but I can,” Fancett said. “I want to make a positive impact and that’s why I’m a part of it.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
Overdose epidemic spreads, strains Springfield first responders
Demand for, debate over Narcan soars in Springfield
Clark County to charge addicts who OD and don’t seek treatment
Clark County drug overdose deaths reach record number
Clark County leaders pledge to fight addiction stigma, OD crisis
About this series: Springfield’s Opioid War
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s opioid epidemic and what local officials are doing to solve the problem.
By the numbers
600: Estimated number of drug overdoses in Clark County this year, the majority attributed to heroin and fentanyl.
79: Confirmed drug deaths in 2016.
69: Unconfirmed, suspected drug deaths so far this year.
7: Average number of overdoses the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division sees each day.