Overdose Treatment Administered by Dwight EMS Spikes in 2016

When the Dwight Emergency Medical Services Department began administering Narcan 20 years ago, there were virtually no calls made where the drug had to be administered to prevent someone dying from an opiate drug overdose. About five years ago, that started to change with an ever growing number of cases administered in the area each year. In 2016, the number was 20 for opiate overdoes, the most it has ever been, said Al Metzke, Dwight EMS director. “Narcan is for overdoses from opiates — pain killers, morphine, heroin,” said Metzke. “Heroin is cheap now and so you’re going to have more of it around,” he continued. “It seems to be the drug of choice.” Narcan costs about $45 a dose, but the patient is usually transported via ambulance to a hospital after the drug is administered. And the majority of those transported are “indigent” with no insurance or means to pay for the $900 ambulance trip. So the taxpayers of Dwight are paying to transport those patients. That is a cost of $18,000 if all 20 patients transported did not pay for those services. “That’s an expense to taxpayers,” Metzke said. “The majority of people do not have insurance.” He said most are on government aid, and don’t pay for the hospital stay either. He said when the first of the month rolls round, the calls for Narcan go up because the government aid checks arrive and “they go buy drugs,” Metzke said. But the issue is not just the monetary expense to society. “The ambulance calls take us away from other people,” Metzke said. “So if my ambulance is out on an overdose call, they are not there for the heart attack or baby delivery or whatever.” He said Dwight would call in mutual aid in such a case, that involves a time-delay of perhaps another 10 minutes for response time to the scene, which of course could be life-threatening. “So there is a ripple effect,” he added. In total calls last year, Narcan calls were 20 of 334 medications administered. The department went out of 1,151 calls in 2016, more than the 1,049 in 2015. And there has been no increase in staffing at Dwight’s EMS department. And all departments are having manpower issues. His staff does mutual aid for other surrounding departments such as Mazon-Verona-Kinsman or even Odell and Ransom. And Dwight uses mutual aid when they need help such as the tornado that struck Dwight in 2010. Dwight went out on 88 mutual aid calls to other departments in 2016 and was assisted by other departments 51 times. Dwight has a second ambulance staffed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 21 percent of the time. All other times require mutual aid for a second ambulance. And the staff currently includes just nine people out of 19 that live locally and can go out on emergency calls on their time off. Sandy Kokaly led her departments with a total of 92.75 volunteer hours while Al Metzke was next with 75.5. The next highest individuals were Mitch Nettleingham at 26.5 and Justin Dyer at 25.5. When asked if the Narcan administrations solve the problem, Metzke replied that it is “reactive” rather than “proactive” and does not solve anything. The person possibly buys more drugs again to perhaps overdose again. A special meeting of law enforcement and EMS services will be hosted by the Pontiac Police Department for area agencies Jan. 17. Metzke, who will be attending, said the purpose of the meeting is to strategize on ways to prevent the overdose epidemic in the region.