Use of Narcan up as High Point first responders deal with increase in drug usage

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- When you walk down South Main Street near the Business 85 overpass, it’s hard to say what you’ll find. Unfortunately for some, they find used needles lining the grass beside the sidewalk.

While shocking to some, it’s not surprising to High Point firefighters. They said South Main Street near the Business 85 overpass is the “most active” area for overdose responses.

During a Wednesday meeting of the newly-formed Public Safety Committee, city Fire Chief Thomas Reid presenting the department’s response to overdose calls.

In the past five years, the department has seen its use of Narcan on overdose patients more than triple. (Narcan is a medicine administered through the nostrils of a person who overdoses. It negates their high and brings them back.)

  • In 2015 the department used Narcan 52 times.
  • In 2016 the department used Narcan 88 times.
  • In 2017 the department used Narcan 172 times.
  • In 2018 the department used Narcan 159 times
  • In 2019 the department used Narcan 180 times.

When asked about the dip in numbers in 2018, Reid said that it was the result of community members stepping in to help tackle the problem through education.

“We extend a lot of resources and taxpayers dollars,” Reid said.

When asked, he estimated that the cost per Narcan dose ran the city around $40. Multiply that times the number of uses since 2015, and the cost comes out to $26,040. The chief detailed how those people who received the medicine will get a bill, but if they don’t pay for it then the cost falls back to the taxpayers of High Point.

When looking at 2019, most of the responses centered around South Main Street, with Triangle Lake Road being the second most active area.

Reid detailed, the reason that is, is the number of wooded areas and places for people to hide in order to get high. Many of those who had an overdose are homeless, or previous addicts on the verge of full destruction of their lives.

“We’ve really got to tackle the problem and break the cycle,” he said.

Not only have the overdose numbers grown, first responders are running into more “aggressive” individuals coming too from Narcan.

“We’re subject to things that you wouldn’t expect, so we have to be ready,” Reid said.

Reid said he hopes the Public Safety Committee, and the knowledge that taxpayer dollars are being spent on the overdose epidemic, will help the city tackle what is being seen and stop it from spreading even more.

“Obviously, people don’t want that in their neighborhoods,” he said.

FOX8 request Narcan usage numbers from High Point police, who administer the medicine when they are the first on the scene of an overdose call.

  • In 2015 they never administered the medicine and saw 6 overdose deaths.
  • In 2016 they administered Narcan 17 times and reported 9 overdose deaths.
  • In 2017 they administered Narcan 37 times and reported 27 overdose deaths.
  • In 2018 they administered Narcan 33 times and reported 17 overdose deaths.
  • In 2019 they administered Narcan 31 times and reported 23 overdose deaths.

The hardest-hit age group of this epidemic in High Point has been those between 26 and 30 years old.

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