A few years ago, the City of Middletown partnered with Atrium Medical Center to bring the community together to collectively tackle the scourge of heroin through a series of community summits.
That group has met more than a dozen times and out of those summits came changes in the manner in which law enforcement tackles drug trafficking, new drug education programs, a better understanding of how best to respond to a drug overdose with EMS service, and new best practices including the heroin response team, drug court and a needle exchange.
Not all of the programs were popular with the community, but doing the right thing has paid off. As we ended 2018, opiate overdoses were down 49% for the year, putting us below 2016 and 2017 numbers. Opiate overdose deaths are down 31%. We’ve seen a 73% reduction in the use of Narcan and the cost savings associated with reduced use.
Additionally, MPD saw a reduction of more than 17,000 calls for service in 2018. Serious crime is down in the city, as is theft related crime. EMS runs for overdoses are also down. The reduction in overdoses in the city has multiple positive effects.
While the opiate epidemic is far from over, we are seeing positive results at a time when other communities are still seeing rises in opiate related OD’s and deaths.
I would like to personally thank Atrium Medical Center for their leadership on this issue and I would also like to thank the community members who have stood with me throughout this fight. It wouldn’t have happened without all of your help.
With the reduction in opiate use come a new threat. As we are learning, addiction takes many forms. Some of the addicts who realized that heroin would kill them eventually, have switched over to meth. While that means that fewer people are dying and EMS runs for overdoses have eased off, we still see addiction in the city. In the past, our narcotics unit would see local meth labs and shut them down. The disturbing trend now is that meth is coming in already processed, more pure than locally produced, and cheaper than it can be made locally.
We held the latest Heroin Summit on January 28th. As we continue to monitor and adapt to new threats from heroin and fentanyl, the group is expanding its reach from a heroin summit to a more focused approach on addiction in general. While heroin forced us all to the battlefield, we see now that addiction comes in many forms and many causes. Some addicts who are getting treatment are successfully beating their addiction. Others just traded a deadly heroin habit for a less lethal drug of choice. Only when we can deal with the underlying causes of addiction in mental health, trauma and other causes, will we start to see an improvement in the overall health of the community as a whole.
The great people who have worked with me throughout this epidemic insisted that we step forward again to work on getting help for addiction throughout Middletown. I’m inspired by their dedication, and we look forward to expanding our work.