At a regular Council meeting, members of the Hazelwood City Council unanimously approved a Proclamation declaring the month of September 2018 as “Heroin & Opioid Awareness Month” in the City of Hazelwood. Mayor Matthew Robinson presented the beautifully framed document to the City’s Fire Chief Dave Herman and to members of a North County-based non-profit organization known as H.E.A.L.: Stop Heroin.
According to national statistics, the number one cause of accidental death in the United States is no longer vehicle accidents, it’s now accidental drug overdoses. In 2017, one out of every 65 deaths in Missouri was attributed to an opioid-involved overdose.
In an effort to improve the health and well-being of all community members, the Hazelwood Fire Department has formed a partnership with the Heroin Education and Awareness League (H.E.A.L.: Stop Heroin.) Ellis Fitzwalter and his wife, Patti, started this organization several years ago after they lost their son Michael to an accidental heroin overdose on August 25, 2014. Their intention has been to empower others with the knowledge they’ve gained for the purpose of prevention and early intervention.
The heroin and opioid epidemic knows no boundaries. It crosses all races, religions and economic status. The stereotypical vision of a junky laying in a dark alley somewhere with a needle in his arm no longer applies. This is not the image of a heroin addict today.
In fact, experts don’t like using the word addict. It is referred to as a substance abuse disorder or a disease that requires treatment and support in recovery as well as access to education, information and support from family members.
Both the Hazelwood Fire Department (HFD) and H.E.A.L. are committed to providing education and information to those who have developed the addition, those individuals fighting to recover, and families who may need an intervention to prevent such a crisis.
For the month of September, all of Hazelwood’s paramedics/firefighters will be wearing yellow shirts with a “Stop Heroin” message on them. Each of the department’s ambulances and fire trucks are adequately stocked with NARCAN in case the Emergency 911 call they respond to involves an overdose. In addition, Capt. Veronica
Dolan, Paramedic/SURRT Coordinator, has made Hazelwood the first fire service agency in North County to launch a Substance Use Recovery Response Team (SURRT) for patients who are struggling with drug abuse.
When Hazelwood paramedic/firefighters run a call involving an overdose, the patient or family member will receive a Narcam Rescue Kit and a folder containing brochures on rehabilitation facilities, a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Directory, a listing of Opioid treatment sites and several informational pamphlets. If patients sign-up for the program, Capt. Dolan can expedite the admission instead of having them wait weeks for an assessment or bed. She provides other services free of charge as well. Also included in the Rescue Kit, patients will find a rescue kit with two (2) 4-mg doses of NARCAN in nasal spray and a one-way valve to give rescue breathes.
H.E.A.L. spreads awareness by organizing walks throughout the North County area, including the City of Hazelwood. Many people who participate in these events carry “Stop Heroin” signs or photos of loved ones who have died from drug overdoses. The Hazelwood Police Department has been supportive in providing security escorts for walks along Howdershell Road. H.E.A.L. also attended the HFD’s Safety Day and set up a resource table where they distributed all sorts of information to people who stopped by. They gave away Stop Heroin bracelets, safe disposal bags for medications and Stop Heroin window decals as well.