Firefighters across Ohio battling heroin epidemic

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s happening in Akron, Cincinnati and right here in the Valley.

Responding to overdose calls is part of the job for first responders-but they say it’s also impacting the services they provide.

At Ohio’s fire training academy in Reyonldsburg Monday, Akron Firefighters Association Local 330 President Russ Brode said heroin isn’t a new epidemic-it’s been going on for years. Brode said Akron firefighters go on six to ten heroin overdose calls everyday.

As of Tuesday, 131 days into 2015, Lane EMS has been on 123 drug overdose calls on the year for its service area.

Officials with Lane couldn’t confirm if all of those calls were for heroin. It did research the ages for the calls. Randall Pugh with Lane said that the calls included people as young as 14 and as old as 82.

First Responders in Akron and Cincinnati say they’re going on multiple heroin overdose calls every day.

“My area that i have is through a major thoroughfare, where we see a lot of people who can’t wait to get to their home to take their heroin,” Doug Stern with the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters said. “They’re stopping at drug store bathrooms, gas station bathrooms, restaurant bathrooms, in the parking lots.”

Responding to heroin overdoses is part of the job, but Stern says when crews are on that call, it takes an ambulance out of service.

“Someone has a heart attack in that area, that ambulance isn’t there to service them any longer,” said Stern, who works in the Cincinnati area.

Firefighters say educating people about how destructive heroin is is key. Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor says it’s an effort everyone needs to be involved in.

“You can’t do just the law enforcement side,” Taylor said. “You have to get the community involved, the faith-based groups involved, parents, teachers, coaches.”

Taylor said Ohio is making some progress in fighting the heroin problem, but there’s a lot more to do.

“I think the idea of heroin may seem glamorous, but I got to tell you, after you see one person lying on the ground blue, vomiting in their own mouth, breathing once or twice a minute, it doesn’t seem so glamorous,” Stern said.

Doug Stern is a Cincinnati firefighter. He says heroin overdoses are a problem across the state of Ohio and they’re affecting first-responder services.

Responding to overdose calls is part of the job– but it’s happening daily in some cities.

“It’s happening every day,” Brode said. “In the city of Akron, it’s probably safe to say we’re getting at least six to ten heroin overdose runs pretty much everyday.”

I asked firefighters if there’s anything that can be done to prevent more heroin doses. They say, a lot of it comes down to education and letting people know how destructive heroin is.

“Letting young people that may be influenced in getting involved in something like that to know what it looks like when you overdose. It’s not a pretty sight,” Stern said.

The problem is not just serious, it’s widespread, according to Pugh.

“This is surface wide. This is not narrowed to one particular area at all,” Pugh said.

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