Hamilton County gets money to start quick response teams to fight opioid use

CARMEL, Ind. -- Jeremy Templin knows the impact of drug use firsthand. He said he turned to heroin and overdosed all before age 19.

His drug use started with smoking marijuana very early on.

"Life events happened and I needed to suppress everything so it was probably 15, 16 years old I turned to heroin," Templin said.

By age 18, Templin said he overdosed in Hamilton County, was revived with several doses of Narcan and sent to the hospital.

"They released me at 6 in the morning. By 6:30 in the morning I was high again. So it was that fast," he said.

But by the next year, he got clean.

"You wouldn't think that Hamilton County, [which] was voted number one place to live in America, it would have this big of an epidemic," he said.

Now 24 years old, he's sharing his story as Hamilton County works to help others from becoming a part of the opioid epidemic. The Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs said it received two $50,000 grants, one for Westfield and one for Carmel, to implement a quick response team.

"We will have a team of individuals that will go and meet with them, treatment, EMS and law enforcement," said Monica Greer, the council's executive director. "The goal is to get to the individual at their time of crisis and hopefully get them to a point of treatment."

The team will respond to overdoses soon after it happens where someone survives, is not sent to the hospital and not arrested, to keep them from falling through the cracks and link them to resources.

"I think for us getting out there right after it happens, before somebody has a chance to relapse into that, while it's fresh on their mind, while it's fresh on our and get them the help they need," said Tim Griffin with the Carmel Fire Department.

The entities will work together and be able to respond throughout Hamilton County.

"There are many times where we're working together as a team whether it be a fire or a medical run, so again this is just one extra thing that we can provide to the whole community," said Matt Biljanic with the Westfield Fire Department.

According to county data, Hamilton County went from less than 5 deaths per year from opioid overdose from 2008 to 2013 to 18 in 2014, 21 in 2015, 26 in 2016 and 36 last year. This year, there were 16 opioid overdose deaths reported as of May.

The grant will fund the first seven months of implementation of the team. Greer said they're awaiting word on more funding.

"Only very few people in my life knew about what was going on, so if I would have known that other people were there to help me and would have supported me, like the police and everything that would have terrified me, but the fire department and EMS people that would have been, I would have taken all the help that I could have gotten because you're so lonely in that place that you don't really feel like anybody's on your side at all," Templin said. "The only thing better than doing drugs would have been death. I think in the right scenario it will help a lot of people."

Templin got help. He's sober now but says he has to go to a lot of funerals for good friends. He keeps Narcan in his car just in case someone else is in need.