Township trying to help with heroin epidemic

By Amanda Amsel
Staff Writer

Earlier this year, the Franklin Township Fire Department took steps in protecting drug users by applying for and receiving a grant from Franklin County Public Health. However, officials say this grant isn’t enough as the amount of overdoses in the township continues to rise.

In March, the fire department received $14,000 worth of Naloxone or Narcan, a medication that is used to block the effects of opioids. However, as the number of overdoses continues to rise, the fire department is finding it hard to keep up with the amount of calls they are getting, while still serving other township residents.

“This heroin epidemic is dramatically increasing the number of runs we are doing and it is a real concern,” said Chas Adams, assistant fire chief for the Franklin Township Fire Department. “While the Narcan is helping us save lives, we need to be doing prevention as well.”

In one month, the fire department is taking over 854 runs or more than 30 runs a day. According to Adams, a large portion of those are related to heroin overdoses.

In 2015, Ohio had 1,177 heroin overdoses, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Since 2002, the state has had more than 12,000 deaths as a result of the drug.

“This really is an epidemic and we are dealing with it on a daily basis,” Adams added.

The Franklin Township Police Department is also carrying around Narcan and have been instructed on how to give the life-saving drug as well.

However, Franklin Township officials agree that more needs to be done than just injecting people with a drug after they have overdosed. Education, rehabilitation and support groups need to be more readily available on the westside.

“I recently attended an event with the city and the county where we discussed what else can be done to stop this epidemic,” said John Fleshman, township trustee.  “These people need treatment, they shouldn’t just be locked up.”

Statistics further back up these claims by Franklin Township officials. According to the Columbus Police Department’s vice team, almost half of their arrests in 2016 have been on the westside. In 2015, only a third of their arrests were on the westside.

According to the Columbus Police Department, a majority of these arrests are related to heroin in one way or another.

There has also been an increase in prostitution on the westside as well, which authorities believe is also related to the heroin epidemic.

“I can’t speak for Columbus, but for Franklin Township, we are dedicated to cleaning up this community and this is something we continue to look into,” Fleshman said. “These people need help or else they get stuck in this endless cycle. Something needs to be done sooner than later.”

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