Toledo’s latest effort to lower drug overdoses

Toledo Fire and Rescue Department has responded to more than 1,700 overdose calls in 2020, up 37 percent from last year
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Toledo Fire and Rescue Department is turning to a new approach centered on education and prevention to save lives.

“With all our efforts it just seems to be getting worse. Every year our numbers go up a far as overdoses and overdose deaths. And it has a tremendous impact on our firefighters and first responders. And everybody all the caregivers involved,” said Zakariya Reed.

Zakariya Reed, a lieutenant with TFRD, said for every single overdose call, a member of the fire department arrives at the scene. First responders then administer assistance with CPR and the lifesaving drug Narcan.

Lieutenant Reed believes the only way for the number of overdoses to drop is if the care the community receives changes.

“By definition, our fire departments are reactionary, so when we get a call, then we go. This is really something we can be proactive within the community. We can save lives,” said Reed.

Since May TFRD has put in a place a plan to provide care beyond their first connection with OD victims.

The plan allows firefighters to leave behind care kits consisting of Naloxone, Instructions on how to do CPR, as well as Information for victims to seek recovery and detox.

The plan is called, “Leave it Behind.”

“It sort of has a double meaning where we leave the kits behind with hopes that the person battling addiction can leave these lives behind,” said Reed.

In Tuesday’s Toledo City Council meeting Lt. Reed announced that the fire department received a $20,000 dollar grant to help increase the Leave it Behind’s message.

The grant comes from The National Institute of Health.

“Its really been amazing to see the impact that’s possible to have when you have a large funding agent like the NIH in the community. And part of this study is community-based research, so it’s really driven by the community and what the community wants,” said Jamie Lester.

Jamie Lester is the community outreach coordinator with The HEALing Communities Study.

The HEALing Communities Study is a subsectional group from the National Institute of Health that according to their website “creates and tests the integration of prevention, overdose treatment, and medication-based treatment in select communities hard hit by the opioid crisis.”

The HEALing Communities goal with the grant is to reduce deaths by opioid overdoses by 40 percent over the course of three years in Toledo.

Lt. Reed believes the funding will ultimately change and save lives.

“People can’t kick this habit unless they get into recovery, they can’t get into recovery if they are dead, so having that naloxone out in the community, so that lives can be saved, gives them a chance at recovery,” said Reed.

Toledo City Council must approve the grant but it’s expected to have the full support of members.

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