Four near-deaths in a week illustrate extent of problem, authorities say
If you need proof that heroin is becoming a significant problem in Ozaukee County, consider this â€” last week, four suspected heroin overdoses were reported to authorities.
â€śFrom Friday to Friday, there were four,â€ť Ozaukee County Sheriffâ€™s Lt. Rodney Galbraith said. â€śThere were three in less than 24 hours.â€ť
Fortunately, he said, all the victims survived.
The first case occurred in the City of Cedarburg early May 2, when a 25-year-old man overdosed, Galbraith said.
Then, between May 7 and 8, three overdoses were reported â€” one each in the cities of Mequon and Port Washington and the Town of Saukville, he said.
In Port Washington, police were called to a home on the cityâ€™s north side just before midnight May 7 for a 24-year-old who wasnâ€™t breathing.
The man was given two doses of Narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdoses, by his mother before police arrived, Police Chief Kevin Hingiss told the Police and Fire Commission Monday.
The man was taken to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton for treatment, he said.
Police confiscated drug paraphernalia, including numerous syringes, tourniquets, marijuana pipes and cookers used to melt heroin into an injectable drug â€” enough to cover six tables at the police station â€” and substances believed to be cocaine and heroin, Hingiss said.
Police have asked that the man be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, Hingiss said. If tests confirm he also had heroin and cocaine, additional charges will be sought.
In the Town of Saukville case, a woman called about 5:40 a.m. May 8 when she couldnâ€™t wake her 22-year-old daughter, Galbraith said. The woman said she suspected an overdose because of her daughterâ€™s past drug use.
But by the time emergency personnel arrived, he said, the 22-year-old was awake and responsive and denied using drugs. Neither of the women would cooperate with authorities, he said.
In several of the cases reported during the past week, Galbraith said, the victims were revived with Narcan.
The drug, he said, â€śwakes them up and allows people to get them to the hospital for treatment.â€ť
But while Narcan is a blessing in that it can prevent overdoses from being fatal, Galbraith said, he sometimes worries that having it on hand may make drug users more confident that nothing will happen to them.
The four cases reported last week are yet another indicator that heroin use and abuse is a significant problem in the county, Galbraith said.
In two of the cases, he said, the victims were â€śpeople who were well familiar with us and had been arrested for committing theftsâ€ť to support their drug habits.
One, he said, had been out of jail for less than two weeks before the overdose.
Having this number of overdose cases in a week is unusual, Galbraith said.
â€śI hope it never gets to the point where itâ€™s not a lot,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re just fortunate weâ€™re not dealing with one or more overdose deaths here.â€ť
But, he pointed out, the Sheriffâ€™s Department doesnâ€™t have a way to track cases of non-fatal drug overdoses.
Galbraith said the last heroin death in Ozaukee County occurred in January, when 31-year-old Joel C. Rebarchik was found dead with a syringe in his hand Jan. 18 in a basement bathroom of a house in Grafton.
Kirsten A. Nadolski of Milwaukee has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide in connection with the death.
Since 2009, Galbraith said, the Ozaukee County drug unit has investigated nine criminal opiate-related deaths in the county, about five of them involving heroin.
Unfortunately, he said, heroin use is a problem that isnâ€™t going to go away anytime soon.
â€śThis is a problem thatâ€™s going to get a worse before it gets better,â€ť Galbraith said. â€śI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s an easy way to measure how widespread this problem is.
â€śBut I really havenâ€™t seen anything to suggest the heroin problem is slowing down here. Thereâ€™s no question in my mind itâ€™s been on the rise and is a significant problem.â€ť