Lancaster EMS responds to nearly 75 overdose calls in one weekend

LANCASTER, Pa.-- Lancaster EMS had a busy weekend beyond car crashes and heart attacks.

Crews responded to nearly 75 drug overdose cases over a three-day period.

Lancaster County officials not only say it's an unprecedented number of overdose calls, but that these cases involve more than just heroin.

Ninety percent of the calls came from Lancaster City.

The number of cases continues to climb. As of Monday afternoon, there were more than a dozen additional calls.

There were 74 calls in 72 hours, and counting. That was the number of overdose cases Lancaster EMS responded to throughout the weekend.

Lancaster EMS director of operations Jerry Schramm said "this weekend's certainly been taxing, a number of overdoses, more than we've ever seen, at least in my 20 years of experience. We've certainly had our surges of overdoses but this is by far one of the worst."

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Steadman said "you have over 70 calls for a three day period. We're a big county, we're not that big. That's an incredible number,"

It's a number that shows this is more than just a case of the opioid crisis getting out of hand.

"There's a heroin epidemic, there's speculation that when heroin is in short supply K2 is taking a bit of a more precedence, there is a lot of K2, most of the overdoses we've had have been K2," Schramm said.

"There's other drugs out there, and synthetic drugs, and there's going to be more tomorrow. There's a market for it, and as long as there's a market for it, people are going to continue to develop drugs like K2," Stedman said.

Jerry Schramm/director of operations, Lancaster EMS: we try our hardest to get a handle on the heroin epidemic, which obvious everyone can empathize that that's difficult in itself, then add dynamics like K2, and it almost seems like a never ending battle," Schramm said.

Meanwhile, Schramm worries about the safety of his patients as much as his crews.

"We've had K2 patients that are combative, where you may have to sedate them at times, restrain them, just to protect the crews and other times where they could have respiratory depression similar to an opioid overdose where you would administer Narcan," Schramm said.

"We have our street supervisor going out as a second set of hands in most cases, just so we have not only an increase set of hands, but also another paramedic on scene that has the ability to manage patients and help manage patients," Schramm added.

Recently, one Ohio sheriff reportedly said that his officers will no longer carry the overdose antidote Narcan, citing it's too taxing to taxpayers.

"I think it's easier for the public, I think it's easier for government officials, for everybody to make the investment if they know that there's a treatment aspect, we're trying to get the person out of that cycle," Stedman said.

"We're here to help everyone, no matter the need, we're out there for the person having chest pain and a heart attack, just as much as we are for the person overdosing, so we're there to help people, that's what we do," Schramm said.

With 15 units, it can be difficult for crews to keep up when calls for overdoses average more than one an hour.

"We've been on scene with multiple patients, that taxes our crews even further where it's multiple units on scene," Schramm said.

Officials speculate a local bad batch of K2 may have caused the spike in overdoses.
Complicating matters is that Narcan is used to treat heroin overdoses, but it doesn't work on K2.

Treatment for K2 depends upon the symptoms of the patient.