County overdose cases more than doubled this year
Through Oct. 30, Woodford County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers administered 60 doses of the drug used to treat overdoses of heroin and other opiates - more than twice the tally of 29 used in all of 2015. The statistics, provided by Woodford EMS Director Freeman Bailey, include two runs last week in which EMS crews treated three people with Narcan, the anti-opiate drug administered nasally or intravenously. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, they delivered 12 doses of the drug. Some OD victims require more than one dose of Narcan, which costs between $35 and $40 per dose. Federal medical privacy laws prevent Freeman and others from discussing most facets of individual cases, but he can describe in general terms how EMS crews do their jobs. When a caller reports a possible overdose, an ambulance with a paramedic and emergency medical technician (and sometimes a third EMS worker) is sent to the scene. "We do not assume that anyone that's unresponsive has automatically overdosed, no matter if we've had them multiple times or not. We go ahead and follow all procedures and protocols to make sure we don't overlook anything," Bailey said. "Anything that's an 'unresponsive' - certain age group, especially - we'll have the police officers respond with us as well. . And when they get there, they'll make that first evaluation. The city police will contact us back if they get there before we do and tell us if the person is barely breathing or they are unconscious and they can't tell if they're breathing. ." Sometimes, police officers begin CPR before the EMS crew arrives. "Then we get there and are able to administer the medication and we get (the patient) back. So it helps, having that extra set of hands out there," Bailey said. Sometimes, an officer is needed to calm the resuscitated person. Bailey said OD victims usually wake up not remembering what happened and are sometimes aggressive. "That fight-or-flight syndrome kicks in, and they're coming up and don't know what happened to them. They just know there's a bunch of people around them and when they start to come up, you kind of have to hold them down a little bit to where they can't get violent," Bailey said. Other times, they're apologetic. "Some of them will wake up and actually tell you, 'I'm so sorry. This is the first time I've ever done heroin,'" Bailey said. In most cases, a state "Good Samaritan" law designed to encourage witnesses to call in ODs prevents police from charging the OD victim or witness. All OD victims are encouraged to go to a hospital, but neither police nor EMS workers can order them to do so. Bailey said there's no way to know how many are scared straight. Some they never see again; others are resuscitated more than once. "It's such a nasty drug, such a hard drug to kick, that a lot of them - we have repeat offenders. They just have a hard time getting away from it," Bailey said. Bailey began working for the county ambulance department 27 years ago as an EMT, then obtained his paramedic's license and rose through the ranks before being named director in August. Asked if the heroin/Fentanyl (a powerful drug sometimes mixed with or substituted for heroin) problem has worsened, he said, "We're not gaining a lot of ground. I'll give it that. We're seeing just as much heroin use and it's mixed with the Fentanyl and different drugs, and it's an epidemic nationwide. It's not just Versailles and Lexington. It's every state," Bailey said. Aside from the life-and-death situation his crews face several times a month, bringing people back to life is expensive. Some OD victims are successfully billed for their treatment, but for the rest, county taxpayers pay for the Narcan and the harder-to-determine value of the time of EMS workers and police. Bailey said the majority of the OD calls his crews have responded to have been in the city of Versailles, making for a quicker arrival and lower death toll than some other counties have seen. "Once they stop breathing, it's just a matter of minutes before we can't reverse that . Bailey said. "We've had the same basic number of calls that a lot of counties have had, it's just that ours have been close enough that we're able to reverse the effects of it ." Bailey said.