Calls to police and emergency rooms for heroin and opioid overdoses in Rowan County have more than doubled over the past year. That’s according to officials there, who described the problem as a major health and law enforcement issue at a press conference Thursday.
Here’s a startling statistic officials released on the drug problem in Rowan County. Last year there were a total of 292 calls in which the heroin overdose reversal drug Narcan was administered. In the first 6 months of this year, it’s been used 284 times says county EMS Chief Chris Richardson.
“We try to wake them up and multiple times we responded to the same residence for different people, sometimes in the same day,” Richardson said.
Hospital emergency room staff treated about 550 opioid overdose cases in June alone. Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten says they often find a group of people in a vehicle or a home who have to be revived with Narcan. He blames a lot of the overdoses on the fact that the heroin they use is often laced with fentanyl, a synthetic pain medication that is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Auten says the increased heroin use has spurred a spike in prostitution, robberies and shootings. Last week there was a double homicide shooting, in which two suspected gang members were arrested. It is not clear if drugs were a factor.
“You always have the threat of violence anytime there are drugs and cash involved, so, it’s a tough one,” Auten said. “It causes us to be taken away from things we normally do. It puts a big strain on law enforcement, not just the enforcement side but getting people to the hospital, trying to help them and dealing with the crime of the heroin trade.”
Auten and city police say their officers will be trained in using Narcan and carry it in their vehicles soon. Novant hospital officials say they have renovated a building there that will house an intensive out-patient drug program, along with a psychiatric clinic, by the end of the year.