Troy Fire Chief Matt Simmons has watched Ohio’s COVID response and the statewide statistics since Ohio began responding to the virus.
“We had the local health department come in and talk with us back in the beginning. What they were saying was pretty grim,” said Simmons.
Fast-forward to November and according to the state website, COVID cases have gone up exponentially in previous weeks and hospitalizations for COVID patients have climbed to all-time highs.
But the statistics that Chief Simmons keeps mulling over are that Miami County (where Troy is located) has seen overdose calls increase by 137%, while suicide calls have spiked an alarming 500%, according to the Chief.
Chief Simmons granted an exclusive interview with The Ohio Star to unpack numbers on suicide calls, drug overdose calls and deaths in Miami County in 2020 versus 2019.
“Troy, Ohio has about 35,000 citizens and I believe what’s going on here is indicative of what’s going on in communities around the state,” said Simmons.
Simmons reminded that when Mike DeWine ran for governor of Ohio, he talked about battling the heroin and drug epidemic ravaging our communities.
In 2016, according to the chief, Troy was in its most devastating spot in the battle against the drug epidemic. Since then, the community built a quick response team that shifted the focus from drug addicts being takers and a lost cause to providing multi-faceted support for those battling drug addiction and a message of hope to the community that those battling drug addiction aren’t a lost cause.
By 2019, Troy had made significant progress – overdoses and Narcan administration were both at their lowest levels.
“Now, in 2020 we’re at our worst,” said Simmons.
As of November 15, there have been 64 calls for drug overdose service and Narcan use is up 178% in those calls, according to Simmons.
The Fire Chief noted that at this same time last year, six calls were made for suicide assistance. As of November 2020, 36 calls have been made for suicide assistance. Tragically, Troy has lost three people to suicide in 2020.
“Deaths in Miami County, Ohio are tracking 5% lower in 2020 than in 2019 – which includes 65 COVID deaths,” he said.
“In April, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were on board with whatever it would take to protect the citizens in our community.” But since then, Simmons believes that we’ve learned much and that policies have outdone their overall effectiveness.
“We have a community relying on us when they call 9-1-1. If we follow the governor’s guidance to a ‘T’, we can’t be there for the community,” he said. referring to the testing, tracing and quarantining strategies.
“From the beginning all we’ve heard from the governor, departments of health and hospitals is a message of doom and gloom,” he continued. “Some people may think I have an agenda. I don’t. I believe people need to see the full picture of what’s going on and that they are wise enough, given all the information, to make their own decisions.”
Simmons told two stories of George Washington to bring perspective to his points and reason for talking with The Star.
The first story was the letter Washington wrote wherein he stated that when Americans are given all the information they will make the right decisions – but warned of a two-party system that would keep citizens from full disclosure, and that would keep them from being able to make the right decisions.
The second story involved George Washington and the 12,000 troops who encamped for the winter before the siege on Yorktown – a critical battle in the Revolutionary War. Washington lost 2,000 troops to disease and Simmons said “he said, ‘look, either God is with us or He isn’t. We must march on.’”
Simmons, a father, said that he believes based on his own experience as a parent that students need to be in school because of the negative mental and emotional health impact of not being able to learn in-person and all that goes along with a traditional education setting.
“I’d be willing to bet a lot of my wages on the fact that the lockdown policies are hurting people left and right,” said Simmons. “I would love to sit down with the Governor to discuss what we’re are seeing in true time – we used to be invited to meetings when talking about drug addiction, but not anymore.”
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Jack Windsor is Managing Editor at both The Ohio Star and The Michigan Star. Windsor is also an Investigative Reporter at WMFD-TV and The Virginia Star. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Troy Fire Chief Matthew Simmons” by Friends of Jena Powell.