Charles County, MD — Charles County, MD -- Last summer the Charles County Sheriff’s Office put up a billboard hoping to shed light on the number of overdoses within the county. The signs reads “46” overdoses.
The problem is so bad, Charles County's EMS said the number of overdoses they've responded to is about six or seven times more.
“Leave Behind Narcan” is the county’s pilot program to fight this and they’re getting help from a woman who told WUSA9 she had to be revived with overdose antidote more than a dozen times.
“I thought I was going to be wrapped around my toilet and go that way. I never thought. I went from begging God to take my life to thanking God I wake up every day,” said a Southern Maryland woman named, Dana.
She asked us not to include her last name, but she still shared her story with WUSA9 and with Charles County’s Emergency Services Department.
“I just want to spread awareness and hope. And the biggest misconception is that addicts are nothing but a piece of trash. That we’re heartless people, but really, some of the most beautiful souls had been the addicts and the addicts recovering. It’s just that we’re so lost in a fog. That we can’t see a way out. It’s a scary place to even explain,” said Dana.
A scary place the 34-year-old has been in for a very long time. Dana said she got hooked on pain killers around 17 years old, after she broke her back in a car accident.
“I got stuck in pity party,” she said, thinking she had lost all opportunity at sports and the future she had planned for.
She laughed after our interview, saying she was actually studying to be in law enforcement.
Dana said as a teen, she used drugs recreationally. Then at 21, she met the love of her life. The man she would later marry.
Dana said they started using together.
“It was not very hard for us to go to a doctor and then just give us an immense amount that, I don’t even think cancer patients would get,” she said.
Dana continued, “at some point, we couldn’t even go to work without getting high or, it was like we were being invited less and less to our family functions because nobody wanted to be around us. It was like, we were nodding-out and starting fights it still wasn’t apparent to us that we were addicts. To us, we didn’t have a problem with using drugs. Everybody else just had a problem with us using drugs. It wasn’t us.”
She said her late husband’s family sees it very differently, but she’s still sharing her account, especially the part when the drugs took a real toll.
“This was the first time that he had actually ever overdosed,” she said. “I don’t remember a whole lot from that morning, but I do remember waking up in the back of the ambulance after being given not one, but two shots of Narcan and waking up and asking, ‘Where’s my husband at? Where is he?’ and they cold-heartedly said that, ‘He’s dead. He didn’t f-ing make it.’ And in a second it was just like, everything completely shattered.”
That still wasn’t her "rock bottom."
However, it was painful enough that Dana said she decided with her parents to stay clean, at least up until the funeral. She tried to get help after, but Dana said there was a problem.
“Rehabs wouldn’t take me,” she said. “They said, well, ‘You don’t need to detox, we can’t help you.’ So at that point, I went to the doctor – said my husband’s dead and they gave me the max that they could for Zanax.”
She had finally hit rock bottom.
“I can’t say a second chance because God gave me multiple chances. But this time I felt like it was my last chance. If I used one more time, I was going to die,” she said.
Narcan never cured her addiction, but it did give her a chance to fight it. That’s why Dana is now working with the Charles County Emergency Services on a new “Leave Behind Narcan” pilot program.
As part of the program, each ambulance in Charles County will be equipped with four green plastic bags. The bags say, “Opioid Overdose Kit” on the front. Inside the bag is one Narcan nasal spray, a refrigerator magnet with the number to various drug rehab programs and agencies and an instruction manual on how to use the Narcan spray.
The pilot program started July 1st.
John Filer is the chief of EMS in Charles County. He said every time an EMT responds to a drug overdose, they’ll give the patient this bring home Narcan package, as many times as they get a call.
“Many of my cohorts say that, unfortunately they say that we’re just feeding the problem and that we’re – the word that they use is enabling folks, but I don’t see it that way,” said Chief Filer.
The chief said the money to fund this program came from a grant after Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergency against opioid addiction last year.
For Chief Filer, it’s getting worse.
“Right now, we’re on record to hit around 300-plus opioid overdoses this year,” said the Chief.
As of July 19th, he said they’ve responded to at least 375 overdoses with some five months left in the year to go. Last year, he said they responded to 471 overdoses in total; 313 overdoses the year before.
WUSA9 checked-in with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. A spokesperson said in one week, the number of overdoses police responded to jumped from 46 to 58. We’re told the sheriff’s office dealt with eight-opioid/drug-related deaths so far this year. The number of lives saved: 35.
“Time-and-time again that Narcan saved my life and finally, after so many chances though, give me a chance to give my son back his mom. Gave me a chance to give my parents back their daughter…that Narcan, that will save families and it doesn’t matter if you get that next chance, you’ve got to keep trying,” said Dana.
She said the drug addict is no longer that “junkie on the corner” and hopes her story will inspire someone else to seek help, no matter how deep their struggle goes.
Her young son is the person Dana credits with finally helping her realize her worth. She said her son now has an app that counts the months drug-free. She said August 2018 will make three years clean.