County Cable Montgomery (CCM), Montgomery County’s government cable station, is now airing a new episode of “A Closer Look,” “The Opioid Epidemic: Our New Normal,” which examines how first responders are rising to and dealing with the challenge of treating opioid overdoses, as well as examining new trends in opioid abuse in the county.
“The Opioid Epidemic” is a follow-up to the show’s first episode, released in September 2016, which studied how the nationwide heroin epidemic has become a prominent problem in Montgomery County.
“The Opioid Epidemic: Our New Normal” can be seen on County Cable Montgomery (Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) on Sundays at 1 and 8 p.m.; on Mondays at 9 p.m.; on Wednesdays at 12, 7:30, and 10 p.m.; on Fridays at 12 p.m.; and on Saturdays at 6 p.m. It also can be seen via streaming at the Montgomery County web site at: http://tinyurl.com/z9982v8 and is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3RRwJa4J4M&t=451s . The show also will be airing on Montgomery Community Media (MCM — Channels 19 and 21 on all cable franchises).
“The Opioid Epidemic: Our New Normal” picks up on the premier episode of “A Closer Look,” “Heroin—The Quiet Epidemic,” about the rise of overdose cases over the last five years in the county. While that show told the story of mothers who had lost children to the disease of opioid addiction, this episode focuses on the shifting ground first responders are facing as they adjust to the “new normal” of responding to opioid overdoses, as well as the increasing illicit distribution of ultra-addictive fentanyl.
“The amount of times that we’re running people that overdose, whether it be heroin or prescription medications, it’s grown exponentially,” said Master Firefighter and Paramedic Sean Carroll of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS). A report released in June 2016 by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirms his experience, showing the number of deaths related to heroin, prescription opioids or fentanyl has more than doubled statewide since 2010.
The show also examines the efficacy of equipping first responders with Narcan (naxolone), a narcotic blocker used to treat drug overdoses, and how to combat the phenomenon of opioid users taking larger opioid doses and having friends administer Narcan if they overdose.
“What happens is that people are getting together, and one person is, if you will, the ‘sober one,’ and other people are experimenting with different dosages and different medications; and as they go unconscious, the sober one administers the Narcan,” said Captain Bob Lindsey of MCFRS, describing so-called “Lazarus parties” that are becoming more widespread.
He also points out that MCFRS now has approximately 1,300 personnel trained in the administration of Narcan.
“It’s sort of a moral imperative — you can’t just write people off,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich. “I think the big challenge is that you can give somebody Narcan, but you don’t necessarily have adequate follow-up treatment. … How do we help someone find their way out of the addiction? It’s always going to be a challenge, but it is definitely worth working on.”
The show also explores the shifting policy responses for educational institutions facing potential overdose situations, and the emotional toll that responding to fatal overdoses takes on first responders.
Susan Kenedy was the producer and reporter for “The Opioid Epidemic” as well as the original “Heroin—The Quiet Epidemic,” which can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkHtrNxkXPE. Mike Springirth was the videographer and editor.
"The heroin problem in our region is real and it is growing,” said Kenedy after filming ‘Heroin—The Quiet Epidemic’ last year. “We were shocked to learn Montgomery County Police are responding to overdose cases on a daily basis. Awareness is the key to fighting this epidemic — people can't be afraid to talk to their kids about this devastating drug.”