KOSCIUSKO — Lakeview Middle School hosted the third part of a public discussion in the “Opioid Crisis: A Community Call To Action” series Monday, May 14. These discussions allow Kosciusko County residents to learn about actions they can take to spread awareness about the growing opioid epidemic.
Monday’s meeting focused on the effects the opioid crisis has on both first responders and family members. The emphasis of the discussion centered on how these individuals are typically the first ones to witness or respond to a drug overdose.
Andrea Schroeder was the first to speak. Her oldest daughter, Miriah, passed away at the age of 27 from an overdose. In 2016, Miriah started using heroin. And in October of that year, Schroeder got a call from one of her children that Miriah was found unresponsive in a street. She was in ICU for a week and was declared braindead.
“I watched my daughter take her last breath,” Schroeder said. “Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I had to go visit a grave. We need to raise awareness because there’s so much stigma. If this can happen to Miriah, this can happen to anybody.”
Sarah Lancaster, a Kosciusko County dispatch worker, stated that they are the first responders operating in a blind environment.
“We rarely get closure on calls we receive,” Lancaster said. “And we’re affected because of that.”
Tracy Wilson, an EMT, said that reporting to drug overdoses can be very difficult.
“It’s frustrating when we go out and this is the tenth time we’ve worked on one patient,” Wilson said. “I’ve sat with parents because they were so distraught about losing a child.”
Shade Keeney, a firefighter and EMT, said that reporting to overdose calls is very stressful.
“A lot of these have to do with young adults and teenagers,” Keeney said.
He discussed the recent popularity of vaping devices and how students use them while in school. First responders also carry Narcan on them, a drug that is administered nasally to someone who has overdosed.
“Five to six years ago, we carried about 2/5 of a milligram on us,” Keeney continued. “Now, we carry about a minimum of 2 milligrams.”
Cindy Price and Liz Campbell, Kosciusko Community Hospital emergency room nurses, also discussed the situations they’ve witnessed at the hospital. Price mentioned a 14-year-old female who passed away after overdosing.
“The saddest faces I’ve ever seen are those of the family members of addict patients,” Campbell said. “This is a really disturbing phenomena that is going across the country.”
County Coroner Tony Ciriello was also present at the event, stating that in 2017, there were 24 overdose deaths in Kosciusko County, with 1,800 in Indiana total.
“People are still overdosing,” Ciriello said. “Let’s make there be even more awareness that this is a real problem.”
To end the discussion for the night, the Moellinger family spoke. Nathan Moellinger is a recovering opioid addict. Moellinger dreamed of being a college football star and even received a scholarship related to football. But after several surgeries during the football season, he quickly became addicted to opiates.
“Opioid addiction is a very isolating disease,” said Moellinger. “I can’t even remember how many times I’ve overdosed.”
He also became addicted to heroin. Moellinger overdosed twice in a 24 hour period. He was recommended to complete a detox program in Florida and has been clean for 15 months.
“The face of opioid addiction takes many looks,” said Cheryl Moellinger, Nathan’s mom. “Just always remember that love comes first. No matter what, support your child and be there for them.”
For more information about upcoming opioid crisis programs, visit the “A Bridge to Hope” website at www.abridgetohope.org.