Addicted Part 2: Impact of overdose crisis on EMS
There have been times when paramedics from F-M Ambulance have responded to three overdose deaths in one week. Sometimes two people in the same room. Dead. As we continue our in-depth community response to addiction in our metro area, WDAY 6 repor...
[Watch the rest of this special reporting series here.]
There have been times when paramedics from F-M Ambulance have responded to three overdose deaths in one week.
Sometimes two people in the same room. Dead.
As we continue our in-depth community response to addiction in our metro area, WDAY 6 reporter Kevin Wallevand has more on how this crisis is impacting EMS in Fargo-Moorhead.
This number hit us like a bag of bricks.
Paramedics with F-M Ambulance had to use the overdose reversal drug, Narcan, 99 times last year. That number does not include the more than a dozen who died from overdose here.
As a trained paramedic with FM Ambulance, Stefan Winkler has seen it all.
"Just when you think you have seen it all, something else tops it," he said.
But this past year has been one for the record books.
"The ones who died on scene are the hard ones to deal with because they died on scene," Winkler said.
An historic number of overdose deaths as an opiate crisis blankets our metro area.
"You never know what they are getting," Winkler said. "It could be laced with fentanyl and bath salts.
Area law enforcement and paramedics can gauge when a new batch of heroin hits the market here in the metro area-there is an increase in overdose calls and the demand for Narcane goes up.
Paramedics here administering 99 doses of Narcan in an effort to save those who overdose. In some cases, multiple overdoses a week.
"I always remind people they were minutes, seconds away from death," Winkler said.
The impact on first responders and EMS workers is not in the training manual.
The paramedics here are in their 20s and 30s and so it is hard to see people losing their lives over this horrible drug," Winkler said.
We started interviewing people for this series in January.
Just since then, paramedics and firefighters have given Narcan, more than a dozen times to overdose victims in Fargo Moorhead.
And now the sobering numbers.
In the past year: 12 opioid overdose deaths in Fargo; 19 total in Cass County, seven overdose deaths in Moorhead/Clay County. Part of the "24"-----9-1-1 calls for overdoses.
Fargo Police Lt. Shannon Ruziska said. "I can think back, I have been here 25 years and I have only been on two overdose deaths that whole career and that was in patrol, but this past year has been unprecedented and it is why we had this huge reaction from the community-all the other resources, addiction places, pharmacies, hospitals to try and stop this from getting worse, to get it back to where people are not dying from overdose deaths."
Longtime law enforcement officers in the region have never seen a year like this.
And as part of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force, law enforcement is joining others in the prevention and treatment community, in getting a handle on the crisis.
That means taking some of main dealers of heroin and fentanyl off the streets and into prison.
"We are taking the dealers off the streets, we are arresting them," Ruziska said. "We have 15 federal indictments that originated with us, most of them from overdose cases, not all, but most from overdose cases."