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#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – #FirstResponders Seek Resources To Battle #MentalHealth, Addiction Issues In Community

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Local #firstresponders are forced to see the ravages of addiction and #mentalhealthcrises within the community on an all too frequent basis, and residents have the opportunity in November to help develop a framework to aid their efforts in responding to the overlapping issues.

Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Rich Elliott said the community is currently seeing an increase in overdose calls, which can range from #alcohol poisoning to the rash of fentanyl-related deaths among the younger population.

“We typically run roughly 180 overdoses a year, so once every other day,” he said. “The majority of those are #alcohol overdoses, not to say that isn’t a fairly significant issue and problem.”

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Overall, Elliott said the county is on track to see approximately 200 overdose calls this year, amounting to a 10 to 15% increase in overall calls. What makes this past year especially unique, however, is the absence of #CentralWashingtonUniversity #students on campus. Elliott said #CWU students tend to comprise approximately 35 to 40% of overdose calls.

“That’s a smaller percentage than most people would normally think, but we track it fairly closely,” he said. “If you remove the #CWU #students and then account for the fact that we’re actually going up, that increase is probably more like 30 to 35% if you were to compare apples to apples in terms of what we would normally see.”

Elliott said the metrics related to the increase over the past year is concerning in multiple ways. He said the percentage of overdoses that relate to prescription drugs and #opioids has increased within the overall call numbers and said the main issue with #opioid overdoses is that they can cause acute respiratory failure within a few minutes.

“If we’re called in time, they are relatively easy #patients to manage,” he said. “You can make a significant impact in terms of managing them, both with Narcan effectively and we also use some effective airway things.”

Although Narcan use can be highly effective in resuscitating #opioid overdose victims, Elliott said the major challenge #firstresponders have is being able to attend to the situation within the window of time where they can bring the #patient back.

“There’s a fairly short window of opportunity to help people,” he said. “The downside is that it is a fairly short window, and sometimes people aren’t with somebody that can call 911. As a result, we are responding to incidents that result in death.”

Although he said the impact on #firstresponders in dealing with an overdose death is profound regardless of the age of the victim, he said the impact is particularly difficult when it relates to a #teenager.

“When it’s 15, 16, 17 years old, everybody understands the impact that has on that family,” he said. “There’s an emotional toll associated with it, and it’s really difficult to respond to these calls and be too late.”

DIFFERENT TIME, DIFFERENT PATTERNS

Having been in the field for decades both on the East and West Side, Elliott said he has seen various patterns of overdose related to different types of drugs. In the time where cocaine was in vogue, he said #firstresponders would see individuals die of an underlying #cardiac condition being aggravated by use of the drug.

“You’d get sudden death sometimes even from first time #cocaine use,” he said. “Although it is coming back into the community, we wouldn’t usually see it. I used to work in the #Seattle area, and we would see waves of heroin that would be mixed at a stronger ratio that someone might typically buy on the street. We would see a wave of deaths go through the #Seattle, South Seattle, and Tacoma area.”

Although drug overdose is an issue #firstresponders have been dealing with for decades, Elliott said the difference between those situations and the current rash of #fentanyl-related overdoses is that he feels that many who use the #opioid products do not realize the risk they are taking when choosing to ingest them.

“It can be very early in their experimentation where they don’t really understand what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re also smoking it, and with smoking it, the intent is to create an intense rapid high.”

Elliott explained that #fentanyl is also unique among other drugs in that it has a very long half life within the body, lasting much longer than other narcotics.

“The opportunity to re-overdose even if you get Narcan into your system exists,” he said.

The other issue Elliott said fentanyl has is the ability to potentiate, or intensify in strength when combined with another drug.

“It can essentially have a multiplier effect,” he said. “Rather than a one-plus-one #fentanyl combined with Percocet, the #fentanyl can actually in some #patients potentiate. It’s unpredictable, and this stuff is being manufactured in labs with nobody knowing what’s in it or how strong it is. It is incredibly concerning to us in EMS because we’re seeing people who are not intentionally doing what they’re doing and not realizing the risk they are in, and obviously that results in bad outcomes.”

ESTABLISHING RESOURCES CLOSE TO HOME

With the proposed #mentalhealth sales tax on November’s ballot, Elliott said the potential effect its passing could have on the community is profound in the issues related to both #mentalhealth and addiction, which tend to overlap on a regular basis.

Elliott said Kittitas County is in the #minority of counties within #Washington state that have yet to pass a tax to address these issues, and that it only continues to hinder the counties that don’t take action on to address the problem.

“I think we’re only one of 11 or 12 counties that hasn’t passed this sales and use tax,” he said. “What that does is it puts us at a disadvantage, because when federal and state grant programs come through to help fund these types of services in communities, one of the first things they look as is does the community support these services. They’re much more willing to add on to those services than they are to sort of supplant local funding, so right away we are throwing money away that’s available to other communities.”

Elliott said the #firstresponders within the county are intensely dedicated in their efforts to stem the tide of the overlapping issues, but the rural nature of the county can make it extremely difficult to get a #patient the help they require.

“In an urban center, you might have those services just because there is enough clientele,” he said. “We’re going to have to subsidize that to some extent if we want to have those services available. We have to transport people to specialized care all over the state and sometimes Idaho. Those beds are incredibly difficult to get ahold of and sometimes it takes the hospital 48-plus hours of somebody sitting in the emergency department waiting to get a bed to get the treatment that they actually need. What we’re hoping to do is have some baseline services available in the county so we don’t have to ship these people outside the county, so they can stay close to their families and be in a better place when the crisis is over.”

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

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