WASHINGTON — Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday to talk about how the city has responded to problems stemming from drug addiction and her average workday.
Rader is one of three women highlighted in the Netflix documentary, “Heroin(e),” which details the area’s problems with heroin and opioid use.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Cabell County saw more than 54 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, the highest rate in the state. Rader told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd the youngest victim she saw that year was 12 years old and the oldest was 78 years old.
“There are no boundaries here,” she said. “Socioeconomic, color, age, sex. There are no boundaries. We see it all.”
NBC News reported overdoses in Cabell County have increased by 443 percent in the last two years, and more than 10 percent of the residents are struggling with addiction.
Rader said 26 percent of the calls they receive involve an overdose, with 10 percent of those calls being a death.
“How often do they get on a truck and fight a fire now?” Todd asked.
“Less than nine percent of the time right now,” she said.
Rader said “80 percent” of the victims her office treats began their addiction with a prescription to an opiate.
“And this essentially triggered an addiction, and they were just searching for something else?” Todd said.
“Yes, that’s exactly it,” she said.
Rader added responding to an overdose is difficult for first responders as well as families.
“Probably about 50 percent of the time we have children involved either watching or involved in the lives of the people who overdose,” she said.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency on Oct. 26, ordering his administration to act in addressing addiction. The decree came without additional resources to fund response options.
Rader said if she had the opportunity to talk to the president about additional resources, she would ask for an unlimited supply of Narcan — a naloxone used to treat opioid overdose — as well as medically-assisted detox and more treatment beds.
When Todd asked Rader what gave her hope, she said the number of people in long-term recovery.
“People do recover,” she said. “I feel like we do need to focus on the positives that we are experiencing daily.”