EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – First responders play a major role in combating the heroin epidemic. Police officers and EMTs respond to drug overdoses on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.
One of these incidences in September pushed the East Liverpool Police Department to release photos that have been seen around the world – images of two adults passed out in the front seat of an SUV, with a 4-year-old sitting in the back.
East Liverpool was once a strong industrial town. Now the city of 11,000 people is ravished by heroin.
“The reality of it is this is happening every day and it needs to be addressed,” Chief John Lane said after the September overdose.
Evidence of drug use can be found all around the city – sometimes needles can be found lying out in the open. Police immediately dispose of them when they’re found.
Some properties in the city, which police say used to be notorious drug houses, are now condemned.
Patrolman Kevin Thompson and Detective John Headley are on the front lines of the heroin battle in the city, but are dealing with more than just heroin. Fentanyl and carfentanil run rampant through the streets of East Liverpool and the entire state.
Each patrol is equipped with a bag of masks and gloves to keep officers safe when dealing with narcotics.
“If I find something that I think may contain narcotics, we don’t even open it up to look and see if anything is in there,” Headley said.
Fentanyl and carfentanil are extremely potent – only a few granules can cause an overdose. Thompson has seen someone overdose right in front of him.
“It’s scary. It’s frightening when that’s going on,” he said. “At that point, it becomes life or death for these people.”
Still, the overdose calls are hit-and-miss.
“Actually one of the other crews, I believe, they had 11 in an eight-hour shift,” Thompson said.
Officers say when they are out on drug-related calls, they never know what to expect.
“I just know that I have to try and make sure they get help and at the same time, be careful,” Headley said.
In 2015, a record 3,050 people died from drug overdoses. Of those, 30 were in Columbiana County.
WKBN is launching a year-long public service campaign to raise awareness about the problem and help come up with solutions. It kicked off with a special town hall discussion, “27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis – National Problem, Local Solutions.”
See all of WKBN 27 First News’ stories on the epidemic in our “Heroin Crisis” section.