SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A dramatic 24 hour spike in drug overdoses in the Ozarks prompted an emergency meeting among Springfield's health and public safety leaders, Thursday afternoon. The Springfield Fire Department responded to 13 overdoses in just one day.
"We knew that number was at a figure we see on a monthly basis." said Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington. He called together emergency leaders across Springfield, which included the police department, officials from both hospitals, the health department, and the county emergency management.
"You have got to pay attention to what those trends are to make sure you are prepared to respond." Pennington explained.
Firefighters are usually the first on scene of a medical emergency, so they knew the numbers that they were seeing were extremely high.
"Our best estimate is when we get new round of something in the community that is being used, and some sort of illegal drug is being used." added Pennington.
"They may think it is the same thing that they have bought off of the street but it is laced with another product which is obviously stronger and you end up with more overdoses." explained Dr. Tom Lewis, Mercy's EMS Medical Director. He says they are working to be better prepared with the recent spike. That includes drugs to help save the life of someone who overdosed.
"We will stock more Narcan or overdose medication in our trucks." Lewis added.
"Quite honestly this medication in normal doses that you would deliver through the nose isn't strong enough for what we are dealing with." Pennington said.
Before the recent spike there had been 42 overdose deaths reported in Greene County this year.
"Drug overdose is an epidemic for us." Lewis added.
So first responders are working on some new technology that will map out where overdoses occur... to better track the trend.
"We hope to leverage the technology to start giving us updates. We start to get updates on upticks or increases of overdoses before we start to notice." said Lewis.
"Narcan is a tool, not the solution. The solution is education and being willing to talk about it." Pennington added.
A news release from the city did not specify the number of overdoses, but pointed to a dramatic increase within the last 24 hours as the reason for the meeting. It is still uncertain if any of the overdoses were fatal.
The city says Emergency Medical personnel are often the first to arrive on scene of an overdose, and were the first ones to notice the dramatic increase.
Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington convened the emergency meeting and issued a public announcement.
“I felt it was important to treat this as the emergency situation that it is, and further coordinate a response. It will take all of us working together to address the disease of addiction which has impacted every corner of our city,” Pennington said.
A group was formulated at the meeting, tasked with determining the best course of action to confront the incidence of overdoses.
Prior to this recent spike, 42 overdose deaths have been reported to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department so far this year.
“We need people to know we are in the middle of an epidemic. Because coming out of addiction takes time and can take multiple attempts, we need to educate the entire community on lifesaving measures,” Dr. Jake Spain, Mercy Emergency Medicine physician and Springfield Fire Department’s Medical Director.