MUNROE FALLS -- City safety forces are taking another step in battling drugs that have caused so many problems in so many communities.

"As many of you already know, we, the Munroe Falls Safety Forces, have been very proactive in fighting back against the current drug epidemic plaguing our society," Police Chief Jerry Hughes posted on the police department's Facebook page March 27. "Even so, the heroin / opiate drug abuse continues to take lives. We have formed a Quick Response Team (QRT) comprised of an officer, a paramedic, and a counselor from the [Summit Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health] Board, to provide follow-up and assistance with treatment to those wishing help in overcoming their addiction.

"Our team will become active April 6, and we hope that we as a team become like the 'Maytag Repairman' and get very few calls for our service."

Stow has also formed a QRT, which became active in early March.

According to a March 28 Summit ADM press release, Munroe Falls will be joining seven other Summit County communities that have formed teams to provide "community outreach to those who have experienced a recent overdose. Teams offer resources for overdose victims and their families, with the goal to offer hope and connect them to treatment.

"In addition to helping connect those in need with services, the QRT has had a positive impact on the attitude and satisfaction level of first responders who are part of the quick response team, partially due to the response of those they are reaching, but also from the broader community."

Hughes told the Stow Sentry that from September 2016, when Munroe Falls police officers began administering Narcan, a drug proven successful in countering the effects of overdoses, and the end of the year, city officers administered Narcan seven times. Addicts survived during six of those calls and there was one death, he said.

Hughes said EMS used Narcan 28 times in 2016 and four times this year as of March 30, with seven doses needed on one call. Hughes said he believes police administered the first of those doses.

Hughes said that when police do respond to overdose calls, the victim is often among a small group of people who have become well known to police.

"We were using Narcan quite a lot, but it was at repeat houses, repeat locations, repeat offenders," said Hughes.

He said he believes the reason why there have been relatively fewer overdose calls this year so far is because some of the known addicts have been incarcerated.

"The truth is, we've locked up most of our heroin addicts," said Hughes. "We've kind of dried up the supply right now."

The press release says that the "QRT concept" originated in Colerain, a Hamilton County township with a population about the same as Cuyahoga Falls, in early 2015.

"The team provides roughly four hours of outreach each week to individuals who overdose and are revived with Narcan," says the release. "Central to the QRT outreach is an offering of a resource packet and support to assist the overdose victim into treatment. This resource information is also provided to the family. The counselor acts to identify and facilitate a warm hand-off to treatment when an available slot opens. The Colerain QRT has experienced an 80 percent success rate in getting addicts into treatment."

A Feb. 17 Summit ADM news release credits Hudson resident Greg McNeil for introducing the QRT concept to Summit County. McNeil founded Cover2 Resource, an organization dedicated to educating families and communities about strategies for dealing with the opiate epidemic, in October 2015 after his son died from an overdose.

"He learned about Colerain Township's QRT and approached the ADM Board about helping to disseminate this program," says the February ADM news release.

Besides Stow and Munroe Falls, Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Barberton, Norton and Tallmadge have formed QRTs.

Hughes said the formation of the QRT is the third of several steps city police have taken in combatting opiate addiction. The first was placing a secure drop box in the police department's lobby shortly after he was hired in March 2016 for people to deposit unused opiate prescription medications. Hughes said the medications are then safely disposed of so that they do not fall into the hands of addicts.

The the use of Narcan by police, who are typically the first to arrive on emergency calls, was the second, with the Narcan supplied to the department at no cost by the Summit County Health Department. Training in its use, he said, was provided by the city's fire department.

"So far. it's been a three-pronged attack," said Hughes. "We're just taking steps here to combat the heroin/drug epidemic. Our Quick Response Team, it just doesn't have to be heroin, it could be anything. It could be meth addicts. It could even be an alcoholic who wants help."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9431

Facebook: Jeff Saunders Record

Twitter: /JeffSaunders_RP