VERSAILLES – Versailles Exempted Village Schools Superintendent Aaron Moran hosted “The Truth About Heroin”, an informational presentation at the school, the evening of May 3.
About 150 people attended. Featured speakers were: Darke County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker; Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein; Parochial Vicar Father Ron Haft of St. Denis, Immaculate Conception and Holy Family churches; Greenville graduate Anna Hatic, D.O., Board Certified Internal Medicine, Family Health; Executive Director of the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services Mark McDaniel; Darke County Office of the Coroner Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator Joe Van Vickle; Registered Nurse (R.N.),Wayne HealthCare Nicole Smith and Versailles Emergency Medical Services Paramedic Tonya Alton. From law enforcement to treatment, to addicted mothers giving birth to addicted babies, information was generously given. After the presenters addressed their perspectives, audience members asked some questions. Here are some of the questions.
Q: What are they doing for children in schools to educate about drug addiction?
A: Chief Deputy Whittaker said even though the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program no longer exists in the county, there are a number of School Resource Officers (SROs).
“We feel SROs bring more to this table and not locked into the DARE program alone, which is a specific curriculum,” he said. “We can expand on a lot more things. I’m pretty sure that next year, every school in Darke County will have a resource officer.”
Q: If a person administered Narcan refuses further care and that person overdoses – is there any outreach made to that person to get them into a treatment program?
A: Chief Deputy Whittaker said the law has changed with the “Immunity Law”.
“If someone calls 911 on a person who is overdosing, or a person that thinks they are overdosing calls 911, we arrive and they are in that state, we treat them and they come back,” he said. “They can be alert, and at that point they sign the refusal. Law enforcement has no mechanism anymore to arrest them. The law says we shall not arrest them. As far as follow up, it is being discussed, county – wide that we call a Quick Response Team. This team is made up of a paramedic, a social worker or addiction specialist and a law enforcement officer, who would back a couple days later and check on these folks, who would be introduced to the opportunity to receive services.”
Q: Can you tell me why someone has to have multiple doses of Narcan (Naloxone, an opiate antidote)?
A: “It is about the amount of opiates that are circulating in their system,” Dr. Anna Hatic said. “They bind up all of their receptors that suppress their ability to breathe, and they become unconscious. The Narcan is trying to knock those off and take over those receptors, but when there is so much in their system it won’t work.”
Q: Is there any limit to the amount of times you would respond to a person to issue treatment?
A: “At the end of the day, it is both a moral and ethical question that is posed to first responders,” Chief Deputy Whittaker said. “In Darke County, I think I can speak for all first responders, we will go every single time someone calls 911, and we won’t think anything of it. We have responded to the same person multiple times. We have administered Narcan to the same person multiple times. The person we are looking at – we are not there to judge, we are there to take care of them. It is not for a deputy to stand over someone and say, ‘not today’. The person laying there is a son, daughter, grandson, mother or father of someone else. Everyone has family and it is not for us to make that decision.”
Q: What is the best outcome or recovery rate with all the treatment alternative we have in terms of a path to treatment?
A: Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan Hein said the perfect treatment plan is dealing with all of the stress factors in someone’s life, and to figure out which one is going to cause them to fail.
“You have all of these issues,” he said. “How can you deal with them on your own? The professional responders can’t do this – it is a lifestyle change. It is going to boil down to what you can do as a community, as a family or a friend, to help knock out those stressor problems. I don’t know the answer because it is going to differ – there is no template. Everyone has to come to the table and solve this.”
Parochial Vicar Father Ron Haft referred to Pope Francis’s talks about the “Gospel of Encounter”, which is just sitting down and getting to know a person, one – on – one, and to listen to them.
“That is going to be an amazing step, when someone who has been struggling with addiction doesn’t get judged, and instead someone listens to their life story,” he said. “The person who listens, might just be the beginning. It is very simplistic but it is the start, encountering people where they are.”
EDS NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series titled “Fatal Addiction” that will address the drug problem and effects on residents and resources in Darke County.
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