Overdose Cases Spike in Louisville: First Responders Hit With 52 Calls Over 32 Hours

By McCarton Ackerman 02/14/17

Most of the calls were related to heroin overdoses. 

First responders

Louisville, Kentucky, has become the latest major metropolitan city to be hit by a rash of overdoses.

CNN reported that Louisville Metro Emergency Services responded to 52 overdose calls in a 32-hour period, from midnight last Wednesday (Feb. 8) to Friday morning (Feb. 10). The prior week saw 25 overdose calls come in during that same period.

Agency spokesman Mitchell Burmeister said that no overdose deaths were reported, but that one person under the influence of heroin died while riding in a car that crashed. The driver of the vehicle was also on heroin.

Burmeister noted that most of the calls were related to heroin overdoses, while others came in for a range of other substances including alcohol and prescription medication. Fentanyl-laced heroin is a possible suspect for causing the overdose surge—as it has elsewhere in the U.S.—but authorities say it's too early to tell.

Louisville emergency services are no stranger to overdose calls; in January, they responded to an average of 22 calls per day. Dr. Robert Couch, emergency medical director at Norton Audubon Hospital, said his facility has been handling more overdose cases than normal and using larger amounts of naloxone to revive patients who overdosed. He also revealed that the hospital’s emergency room is seeing more repeat patients.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer discussed drug use in his Feb. 2 State of City address. He confirmed that the city’s police department is hiring 150 new officers and will add on two new detective squads to handle drug-related crimes.

"We're collaborating with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the US Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General's Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute our most violent offenders," said Fischer.

The overdose epidemic throughout much of Kentucky has even led to children as young as nine years old learning how to administer naloxone. Entire communities have rallied around these efforts, with Bullitt County hosting a local workshop for children and even dispensing free naloxone kits.

“If a kid could save somebody, why not?” said Jennifer Punkin-Stepp, who hosted the Bullitt County workshop and leads her community Opioid Addiction Team, to NBC News. “Instead of having the nightmare of watching somebody die.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.