Good news, bad news in Dearborn County heroin overdose statistics

Posted at 6:03 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 18:48:57-05

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. -- There's good news and bad news to be found as heroin deaths have declined in Dearborn County: Fewer people are dying, and fewer are being admitted into the local hospital for overdoses.

But addicts may be turning to another potent but less deadly drug.

Dearborn County had 14 overdose deaths in 2015 and 12 last year; at the same time, admissions to Dearborn Community Hospital for heroin overdoses dropped dramatically. Ryan Morath, a registered nurse, said many patients don't come to the emergency room because they've been given overdose antidote Narcan, or naloxone, at home.

"It's really hard to go through rehab when you're a corpse, and Narcan will keep you from becoming one," he said. "In most instances, it would allow them to wake up to be able to make the decision, 'Do I need to go to the hospital?'"

Lawrenceburg Emergency Medical Services administered Narcan 23 times last year, up from five the year before. Bobby Mills, EMS director, said each dose saved a life.

"Any time you save a life, regardless if they want to commit suicide or take a drug overdose or a car wreck, we feel good," Mills said.

There's another component as well: a united community. The Lawrenceburg Police Department started a quick response team modeled after Colerain Township's. The team includes a paramedic, a counselor and a police officer who respond to and help those who've overdosed on heroin. The goal is to help addicts so they don't overdose again.

After four months, Lawrenceburg Police Chief Don Combs said it's been a success.

"We're not going to hinder the prosecution side of it," Combs said. "If they did something wrong, then they did wrong and they have to face that."

And heroin isn't always the problem anymore, County Prosecutor Lynn Deddens said.

"A lot of addicts themselves have told us they're turning to methamphetamine, because while you can inhale and ingest meth, you're not going to necessarily die from it, unlike heroin," Deddens said.

Lower numbers might not be a long-term trend, either, Deddens said: There were five overdoses last week, including a 64-year-old grandmother who died and her 68-year-old husband, left on life support.