LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – La Crosse County has had zero heroin overdose deaths since January 1, 2014, according to the La Crosse County Administrator.
While members of the Heroin Task Force are calling this a victory, coordinator Al Bliss said he understands the numbers mean that fewer people had overdoses, not that fewer people are using the drug.
When it comes to heron, Bliss said there's an average of 10 overdose deaths per year in La Crosse County.
"I would like to say that some of the awareness that's been created with the task force, the work of the media, the implementation of some of the objectives as far as getting the medication drop boxes in place,” Bliss said. “I think all of those collaborations and awareness (has) helped."
He also credits police work and firefighters' ability to administer Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of narcotics.
Since February the La Crosse Fire Department has been allowed to administer the Narcan.
"Evidence of narcotic usage such as track marks, 'pinpoint' pupils, paraphernalia at the scene, a known history with that patient,” listed La Crosse Firefighter/EMS Trainer Jim Hillcoat. Those are signs that he or other EMS-trained firefighters would use Narcan during an emergency.
A person's respiratory rate would have to be less than 8 per minute, too, Hillcoat said.
Once firefighters use Narcan on a patient who overdosed, they expect hope to see a him/her wake up in a matter of minutes.
“This year our numbers do seem to be down when it comes to respiratory arrest as a result of narcotic or heroin overdoses,” Hillcoat said.
This year, the department has responded to about 31 overdoses for any type of drug.
"I think we're a long ways away from solving heroin/opiate issues,” Bliss said.
The Heroin Task Force has met for six months already, and has come up with 19 different recommendations, according to Bliss.
While there are more sanctions in place to reduce heroin overdoses, Bliss said their effects will need to be measured over a long period of time.
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