National Opioid Emergency, First Responders Weigh In


The opioid epidemic is one of the biggest issues facing the country.  Thursday, the President is expected to declare it a national emergency,.  The move could lead to congress voting to dedicate billions more to treatment and prevention.  They’re hopeful that could help turn the tide against the crisis here in the Stateline.

“Their respiration is usually decreased, they’re blue, they almost most of the time look dead,” said Brett Brendel.  The Emergency Medical Service Medic treats people who have overdosed on opioids.  

What local responding agencies are dealing with can be broken down into numbers.  This year, the Rockford Police Department  have reported 252 overdose calls.   In 2016, they saw 243.  So far in 2017, Rockford and Winnebago County have had 89 opioid-related deaths.  Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz says that number is expected to rise and surpass the 96 lives lost in all of 2016.

“We’re not stopping by any means,” said Hintz.  “Just even from the last 24 hours, we’ve had three overdose deaths.”

President Trump’s anticpated announcement will bring the issue into the spotlight, which could provide more funding for Narcan.  The antidote can reverse an overdose immediately.

Rockford Police Department Assistant Deputy Chief Mike Dalke says he hears the calls being reported, after the Narcan drug is administered.

“I’ve actually heard it referenced on the radio as ‘the miracle drug,'” said Dalke.  “The miracle drug works again.”

Winnebago County officers and Rockford Fire EMS crews already carry the drug. However, Rockford Police as of right now do not.  Walgreens has even announced it will be providing Narcan over the counter.

“The fact that it’s actually being sold now over the counter speaks to the volume of the opioid epidemic that were actually dealing with,” said Brendel.

Local officials would also see more funds to help deal with the issue of addiction as well, not just how they treat it.

“Narcan is a great tool, but it’s not the solution to an overarching problem,” said Dalke.

On average, first responders use about 1.5 doses of Narcan per patient.

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