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Overdoses continue to be issue for EMS personnel


The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.  — Martinsburg’s emergency medical services reported two drug overdose deaths during March, according to an overdose report released by the Martinsburg Fire Department Monday.

The EMS responded to 16 overdose calls and provided 25 doses of Narcan in March, said Lt. David J. Weller of the Martinsburg Fire Department,who is also the department’s EMS coordinator.

Narcan is a medical treatment for opioid overdoses, which are administered by EMS and police personnel.

For the first three months of 2017, EMS reported five overdose deaths, with one non-heroin related. Overall, EMS responded to 45 overdose calls, and administered 70 doses of Narcan, Weller said.

The volume of EMS overdose calls can vary month to month, Weller said.

“There’s months where there’s an increase in the amount of responses that we’re seeing,” he said. “And as the number of calls increases, consequently, we have more deaths from overdoses as well .”

The city’s overall number of EMS calls — including overdoses –has increased in the past five years, said Martinsburg Fire Chief Paul E. Bragg.

Between 2011 and 2016, Martinsburg’s EMS calls increased 34.3 percent to 4,077 calls. Over the 10 year period between 2006 and 2016, Martinsburg’s EMS calls increased 54.4 percent, according to the Martinsburg Fire Department annual report for 2016 released in March.

According to Bragg, the main reason for the overall rise in calls: an aging Martinsburg population.

“It’s something that’s going on, not just in the City of Martinsburg, but EMS calls are increasing all over, “ Bragg said. “They continue to go up every year. The ‘Baby Boomers,’ who are a large group of the population, are getting older, so there are more calls in that area.”

Although Martinsburg is fielding more drug overdose calls, Bragg said, it does not account for its overall EMS call increase.


“In 2016, we ran 195 drug overdose calls, so that doesn’t make up that number of increased EMS calls that we’re seeing,” Bragg said.

The city’s volume of fire calls has also risen steadily in that time period.

The total number of fire calls fielded by Martinsburg Fire Department between 2011 and 2016 increased 28 percent to1,804, according to the report. Since 2006, the number of fire calls in the city rose 68 percent.

Bragg said some of the fire department calls are to “support the EMS ambulance.”

The rise in fire and EMS calls in the last 10 years may also be due to an increase in the greater Martinsburg area population.

Between 2011 and 2015, the population of Berkeley County has increased 5.7 percent to 111,901 residents. Between 2005 and 2015, the population increased 19.8 percent.

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