Information packets target drug overdose victims

June 21, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Drug abusers often don't want help.

Baltimore County paramedics respond to an average of 20 overdose calls a week. But when emergency workers arrive, patients frequently refuse to go to hospitals.

Until recently, there was little that rescue workers could do. But now, rather than simply driving away, paramedics have a tool that could prod some drug-abusers into seeking treatment.

The Baltimore County Bureau of Substance Abuse and the county Fire Department have distributed 4,000 information packets to emergency vehicle crews and hospitals to be handed to overdose victims.

The front of the packet reads: "You have just survived a drug overdose. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You could have easily died. Now is the time to seek help for yourself."

Inside are pamphlets on heroin, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine and inhalants, and a list of telephone numbers for substance abuse services.

"This may truly be the last chance these abusers will have to seek help and save their lives," said Michael M. Gimbel, director of the substance abuse bureau. "Sometimes it takes a crisis like an overdose to help break through the wall of denial the abuser often lives with."

Henry Meyers, a paramedic at the Pikesville Fire Station, said he had been frustrated at not being able to help drug abusers who refused treatment.

"The packets are not the only solution to the problem, but they are a big first step," Meyers said.

The packets cost $6,500 to print and prepare, with money coming from a state grant, Gimbel said.

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