As state and local officials and organizations work to find solutions to preventing opiate overdoses, incidents of such occurrences have spiked in recent weeks and over this year.
Last week, Revere Fire reported there were 12 overdoses and eight were given the reversal drug Narcan – and were saved. Another six were reported this week, including in public places like Louis Pasteur Park and a local Laundromat.
One of the most striking incidents came last Wednesday, July 8, when a man nearly drowned after using opiates and laying down on the Beach. After going unresponsive, the tide came in and enveloped him, dragging him into the water where he lay motionless and at risk for drowning.
“A male and female evidently had used opiates during the day and had laid down on the waters edge,” said Fire Chief Gene Doherty. “They, either passed out or fell asleep. The tide came in and the male actually had floated out about 25 feet before the female came to and realized it. She went in water and started pulling his floating body back and calling for help. A Good Samaritan, Chis Mazzola, a nephew of two retired Revere firefighters, Phil and Jay Mazzola, came over and pulled him ashore. He started doing chest compressions as the Ladder 1 crew arrived.”
The crew from Ladder 1, including Lt. Kevin O’Hara, Firefighter Roger Sarcia and Firefighter Justin Lally found the man did have a pulse, but wasn’t breathing. They quickly realized he had taken some sort of drug and applied an injection of Narcan in his thigh and a dose of nasal Narcan.
That brought him back to consciousness.
“He actually walked up to the ambulance with the firefighters eventually and was transported by ambulance,” said the chief.
While that is an extreme case, it has become all too common for such incidents in public places like the Beach.
And the numbers seem to be growing, and not getting better – even as more and more resources and energy are focused on it.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said in May that the situation is disheartening, and shared as much with Michael Botticelli, director of the Federal Office of National Drug Policy, during a summit.
“We had 13 overdose fatalities in all of 2014 and so far, through mid May of 2015, have already had 15,” said the mayor. “For the first time in our nation’s history, the number of overdose fatalities across the country has surpassed the number of people killed in traffic accidents. In my opinion, this is the biggest public health crisis of our time. We spend an incredible amount of time working on strategies that could curb drug use…”
Revere Police said they are working on new solutions, along with the Fire Department, to perhaps treat the situation such as was done with domestic violence in the 1990s.
“We might be able to see families that are struggling with substance abuse long before there are any overdoses due to the crimes we respond to,” said Lt. Amy O’Hara. “When people who have substance abuse problems do things they wouldn’t normally do, such as robberies or assaults or break-ins, we often see that. We are dealing with that population even more than the Fire Department or ambulance.”
She said they are in the beginning stages of looking at the hiring of a community outreach specialist to interact with families and those who have substance abuse problems. Such a thing was used to intervene in domestic violence situations in the 1990s, and that outreach specialist is still used by the police.
“It’s almost seems to call for the same thing that we did in the 1990s with domestic violence and we’re in the beginning stages of looking at that,” she said. “We have been on the forefront of this in Revere, and with us, the Fire Department working together, we are certainly going in the right direction.”