The opioid crisis is sweeping the U.S., leaving many areas across the country with questions as to how to end the epidemic.
In Middletown, Ohio, authorities have already seen more overdose calls this year than in all of 2016. CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil got a first-hand look at the problem overwhelming the city.
During his visit, he spoke with Bill and Eileen Alley about the addiction that nearly killed their son, David.
“The heroin started gettin’ the better of him,” Eileen said. “I kept calling the police on him, hoping the police would arrest him. I spent many days followin’ him, wonderin’ where he’s at, texting my husband, ‘Go check on David. Go make sure he’s breathing.'”
Bill says they checked on David “like he was a newborn child.”
“We’d take turns gettin’ up in the middle of the night to make sure our son was alive,” Eileen said. “I heard signs of, you know, heroin, the dance, the slap, the bouncin’. I call it his heroin dance. And I went down and said, ‘David, I can’t take it no more. I don’t wanna do it no more. I physically am not able to.'”
“Well, he was so high, he cussed me out,” she continued. “He called me some names that he’s never, ever called me. And I knew, at that moment, that I had to do somethin’. And I went up and told his dad what had happened. And I went to my mom’s for the night. And I let him handle it.”
Bill says he “pointed at the door” and told David, “Don’t come back until you are off that crap,” which prompted him to leave.
“The last time I seen him, before he overdosed again, he was walkin’ down the driveway,” Bill told Dokoupil. “And he turned around and looked at me and just smirked and said, ‘Take a good look, it’s the last time you’re gonna see me alive.’ And he went and stayed with some people that cared about him.”
According to Bill, David stayed with a group of people — who aren’t drug users — for about two weeks before he overdosed again.
“They had to kick their bathroom door in to do CPR on him until the ambulance got there,” he said.
“Even though they’re down, they’re high on heroin, they still deserve to live,” Eileen said. They just don’t know it.”
“They’re consumed by an addiction,” Bill added. “You know, there’s people out there that don’t have any sympathy for people with addictions. And you know, they believe the Narcan should be cut off after three times. All I can say is I hope they never have to change their stance on it. Because if they do, that means something really bad has happened to someone they love.”
Bill and Eileen told Dokoupil that EMS workers in Middletown saved their son’s life — four times. He’s now in rehab in Columbus where he’s doing well.
Dokoupil asked the couple about Middletown City Coucilman Dan Picard’s suggestion that EMS may have to stop responding to calls when patients overdose three times or more.
“It angers me,” Eileen said. “That’s a death sentence to thousands of people, thousands of people. That’s not the answer to the drug problem. That’s not the answer to our heroin epidemic. Our town is in crisis, full-blown crisis. We need help. And taking away the narcan is not gonna help. It’s gonna make it worse. the bodies are gonna add up. The families are gonna mourn. These people need a chance, like my son had.”
“I do get it,” Picard told Dokoupil. “Some of these stories are very heart wrenching. And I feel very sorry for everybody or anybody who has this issue. But people need to understand that I’m a city counselor. My job, as a city counselor, is to make sure this city can continue to function and provide services to its citizens. And at the rate we’re going, we’ve got to do something.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued. “I think we should save every life we possibly can. But what do we do when we don’t have any money?”
Last year, Middletown EMS made 532 runs for opioid overdoses. This year, they’ve already had more than 600 runs through June. And they’re using more naloxone to counter the effects of stronger synthetic drugs.
City leaders say they’ve surpassed the $11,000 they spent on the treatments last year, and are on pace to spend more than $100,000 this year.