2017-12-14 / Front Page

Think safety when helping OD victims

Former Leelanau County Sheriff’s deputy and undercover cop Jim O’Rourke thought he’d left the danger and drama of law enforcement behind when he retired.

Then last year he found a young man face down and unconscious at the Speedway convenience store in Greilickville. His training kicked in.

“It’s almost a common thing now to find someone like that,” O’Rourke said. “When I was in the drug of choice was meth. Now you can get cheap heroin. Now, like the people who OD’d or died, you don’t know what’s in it. Is it Borox, or was it rat poison? You just don’t know.”

The individual O’Rourke found had taken an overdose of heroin that was cut with a dangerous mix that came close to killing him. O’Rourke said he’s been trained to find the drug that was taken.

“They inject it, they pop that tourniquet, and they pass out. You punch it in, then you’re gone. The needle will be right there. The guy at Speedway, they said find the needle, and it was in the trash,” O’Rourke said.

Suttons Bay-Bingham Fire and Rescue chief Jim Porter urged caution to people trying to help someone who has overdosed. Calling 9-1-1 is essential.

“The second thing is your own safety. If you are not feeling safe about that situation, you need to back away,” Porter said. “Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t put your hands in anyone’s pockets, and be aware of that potential hazard lying around.”

If you feel safe, check for breathing. If the person is not breathing, “that’s where you can do chest compression, like 100 to 120 a minute,” he added.

While the safety warning may sound like a crass response to someone in trouble, first responders say it should be heeded.

Many heroin addicts carry hepatitis C, making that nearby needle a danger to anyone who touches it. And Heroin is now routinely being cut with a drug called carfentanil, which has the potential to enter a body simply by touching or inhaling it.

“We’ve developed policies now for Michigan State Police and our partner agencies that only specially trained personal can gather powder drug evidence,” said Mr. Belcher. “Just something as innocuous as a tuft of wind or a ceiling fan that starts to twirl, all of that can create a situation where officers become exposed.”

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