Increasing overdoses putting strain on local emergency rooms

St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown is seeing more overdose patients filling its ER

St. Elizabeth Youngstown ER operating room

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The number of overdose patients filling emergency rooms across the country is increasing at an alarming rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says from July 2016 to September 2017, the number of overdoses treated in emergency rooms jumped 30 percent nationally.

As you move to the midwest, it’s even worse — a 70 percent spike. Wisconsin saw a 109 percent jump.

Locally, Ohio is up 28 percent, and Pennsylvania was up 81 percent.

What do all these numbers mean?

One thing is that waiting rooms at the ER are a lot busier, and the waits for non-overdose patients could be longer.

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Dr. Matthew Eggleston, the assistant director of Emergency Medicine for St. Elizabeth Health Center, said the downtown emergency room saw the same increase in overdoses as the rest of the midwest — about 75 percent.

“We’re often seeing a mixed picture, so we are seeing cocaine overdoses that are being mixed with fentanyl. We still see plenty of pill overdoses, but we are even seeing marijuana overdoses that are laced with fentanyl,” he said.

Naloxone, also known under the brand name Narcan, is the overdose-reversal drug carried by ambulance crews and many police officers.

Even with naloxone treatment, a patient needs to be seen in the ER.

“The increase in overdoses, it’s putting significant pressure on our emergency departments,” Eggleston said. “Typically, when we have an overdose that comes in, that patient needs several hours of monitoring to see if they need additional Narcan or even admission to the hospital,” he said.

According to St. Elizabeth Health Center, the overdose numbers seemed to spike late last year and have dropped slightly. The number is still high, however.

“We do see repeat overdose patients,” Eggleston said. “I think my record is seeing the same patient three times in a 10-hour shift.”

Mercy Health has peer recovery coaches available in the emergency room for overdose victims. Together with the doctors, they try to guide addicts to ask for and get help.

“We often try to talk to them and talk to them about some of the withdrawal medications and some of the resources that are available to them, both within in our hospital as an intensive outpatient therapy program and other community resources that aren’t directly affiliated with us but we can we refer them to,” he said.


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