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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There seemed to be no end in sight. Like the rest of the region, overdoses in Westmoreland County took more lives than murder, car accidents and suicides combined: 174 in 2016 and 195 in 2017.
“People asked me, ‘Is there light at the end of the tunnel?’ I said, ‘I don’t even think we’ve seen the tunnel yet,'” Coroner Ken Bacha said.
But through the first five months of 2018, fatal overdoses in Westmoreland are down more than 40 percent, and coroners across the region are reporting similar decreases.
“[It’s] great news. I think it’s finally starting to click,” Bacha said.
The question is, why now? One reason has been the availability of the reversal drug Naloxone, known as Narcan. Organizations like Prevention Point Pittsburgh have made free doses readily available to addicts and their families.
Through August of 2017, Pittsburgh EMS was responding to about 7 overdose calls a day and, in most of those cases, administering Narcan to the addicts when they arrived. But since then, those calls have dropped to 3 or 4 a day — a reduction that Chief Robert Farrow mostly attributes to the availability of Narcan in the hands of private citizens.
“People having Narcan are reviving loved ones and so forth, and perhaps not even calling 911 and so we’re not even aware [the overdoses are] happening,” Farrow said.
Others believe that fewer people are starting to use while more addicts are getting into treatment, 12-step programs and the use of drugs like Suboxone and Methadone.
Whether it’s treatment, law enforcement, the availability of Narcan or all of the above, the bottom line is fewer people are dying and in the face of this opioid crisis, that is very good news.