ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As of Thursday, Monroe County has seen more than 100 fatal overdoses this year alone. To date, Monroe County Sheriff’s officials say 410 overdoses have been non-fatal and 101 people have died.
The “opioid epidemic” is a crisis that officials say is impacting communities all over the country and recent video from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office shows just how terrifying opioid overdoses can be.
On September 14th, deputies responded to a man in his early 20s who had overdosed in the town of Sweden. When they arrived, he was laying on the side of the road at the corner of East Avenue and Sweden Walker.
“It was a kind of chaotic, there was oncoming traffic and good Samaritans…. we noticed a gentleman, white male on the ground and good Samaritans near him,” recalled Deputy Brian Callaghan with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Callaghan and Deputy AlexaRae Tschorke both responded to the call. Tschorke was in her final phase of the the sheriff’s field training program.
“It was obvious he was unconscious. We first attempted sternum rubs, verbal commands… to no effect,” Callaghan said. He and Tschorke said they quickly decided to try Narcan, which ended up bringing the man back to consciousness.
“Once you insert in the nose and then push down, probably within a couple of seconds, they’re starting to come to and that’s kind of where we’re kind of watching. Because normally when they come out of it, they’re pretty agitated. So we’re taking all of that into account as we’re administering the Narcan,” Tschorke explained.
The deputies said the man had told him he was there to do yard work when he “shot up some sort of opioid and immediately passed out.”
While terrifying to see, overdoses aren’t rare. Deputies say they often have to provide Narcan to someone twice a day.
“As deputies we have to carry in Narcan. We sign it out the beginning of our shift, we make sure that we have at least two packages of Narcan, I believe they’re four milliliters apiece,” Callaghan said. It’s unfortunate and it’s fortunate that we’ve experienced so much that we gotten to the point where we can administer it safely and we know how to handle ourselves around opioids.
The on-going COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped the on-going epidemic.
“Think of how many people reverted back to their old ways, because we took everything from them, you know, they went to the gym, they had jobs, they had normal lives. We shut that down. We had many people relapse,” Deputy Michael Favata with the Heroin Task Force said.
To help, deputies say getting to know those who overdose is important. Tschorke said she rode with the man who overdosed on the 14th to the hospital.
“That’s somebody’s son, that’s somebody’s grandson, and we want to be able to help them the best way that we can. And so being able to carry out that conversation afterwards too was I think beneficial and crucial and understanding what’s going on,” she said.
“You have an empathetic response. At the end of the day, this is someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s family member, friend. So we take that on, we take that on on every job we go on. You have to see them for… this is a sickness. And we need to help,” Callaghan said.
The county’s Heroin Task Force has also been ramping up efforts to help support people who overdose. Deputy Michael Favata said he follows up with the individual after an overdose.
“I go and follow up with those within 24 hours and offer them treatment,” Favata said. He also said he offers to bring them to programs.
Following treatment Favata says, “We work with Rochester Works to help them get a job once they complete their 30 plus days of of treatment, because we want to see them succeed. You know, we don’t want to dump them right back into life they were in.”
The task force also goes to local schools with educational programs.
“We go into the health classes, I show them videos, body cam footage, and say look….’if it’s you, family member, whoever it is, who needs help, talk to prevention counselor, I’ll meet with you. And we’ll put you in touch with the right people.’ And we’ve been very successful with that,” Favata said. “We left one of the school districts after our Hero Program and the student came forward and said, ‘I’ve been using every day for a month and a half. I don’t want to be that person on the stage.’
Deputies say it’s important people in the community know it is their job to help and there are numerous options available in Monroe County. Callaghan reminded residents this:
“If anyone is struggling with addiction, to get the help they need, and know if they need to reach out to law enforcement, or social worker, or any family or friend that there’s help out there,” Callaghan said.