CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s paramedics and first responders are on the front lines of the city’s heroion epidemic every day, especially on the West Side.
Paramedic Field Chief Patrick Fitzmaurice has been working the streets of Chicago for 43 years, mostly on the city’s West Side. He said heroin overdose calls come in a dozen a day.
The 700 block of North Homan is the epicenter of Tuesday’s 18 overdoses in the neighborhood.
The area is littered with drug bags. And the veteran paramedic believes the problem will only get worse in the area.
“You think some 7-year-old kid doesn’t know what that is? He knows exactly what that is,” Fitzmaurice said. “He knows that’s heroin. And it’s disgusting. The one thing that makes the West Side drug overdoses busier than the South Side is, you know, we have the suburban communities that come out here to get their heroin.”
Fitzmaurice says the heroin is also getting stronger. All paramedics and firefighters carry Narcan, which revives overdose victims. He says one dose isn’t always enough anymore.
“We’re usually going through more, significantly more sometimes,” he said. “Our goal is just to get them breathing again.”
But that leads to another concern — paramedic safety.
“The biggest problem for paramedics is they become violent,” Fitzmaurice said. “They don’t want to go to the hospital with us. We have to take them to the hospital. I had a heroin addict bite a hole in one of the paramedic’s arms, just bit a big hole in her arm.”
Yet Fitzmaurice and his paramedics keep saving lives, despite an epidemic that keeps claiming more victims on the West Side and beyond.
“It’s always worth trying to clean up for the kids,” he said. “The politicians like to say ‘For the kids,’ but damn it, these kids gotta live through this stuff. They’ve gotta grow up.”
Fitzmaurice said they often want police on overdose calls because of the potential for a revived victim to get combative.