Deputy saves overdosing teen girl

Staff Reports

A Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy investigating a 911 call from a west-side department store parking lot found a 17-year-old girl overdosing on heroin.

The female teen received two doses of naloxone, the drug-overdose antidote, from Sgt. Dean Johnson before she regained consciousness and was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, deputies said.

“At one point, they put this out as a code,” said Sheriff Matt Myers, referring to police communication that indicates an individual is dying or is already dead.

“At least a person called 911,” Myers said after reviewing the report on Wednesday. “I don’t want to say she was lucky. She was fortunate. This was not a good situation.”

Bartholomew County emergency dispatchers received the 911 call at 9:05 p.m. Tuesday. Although no one was on the line, GPS tracking showed that the call originated in the west-side Walmart parking lot, Myers said.

Deputies said Johnson was driving on State Road 46 in front of the west-side Walmart in Columbus at the time when he heard a dispatcher’s request for police to respond to the parking lot.

“Dean’s close, he takes the call and looks around the parking lot,” Myers said. “He talked to a couple of the employees. And then he decided to drive the lot to check. And he found a car in row five that is running, with the lights on and the windows beginning to fog up.”

As the deputy approached the car, he found the 17-year old in the front seat on the passenger side, slumped over the console, Myers said.

The teen had a weak pulse and was not breathing well, and Johnson immediately gave her a dose of naloxone and waited for about two minutes for a response — and then gave her another dose, he said.

The girl regained consciousness after the second dose and was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, deputies said.

Tracking the call

As they continued to investigate, deputies learned the 911 call had been made from the girl’s phone in the car, Myers said.

Investigators determined someone was with her in the car and used the girl’s phone to call 911 and then left, the sheriff said.

Deputies have identified and interviewed that individual and confirmed that the person did call 911 from the girl’s phone, he said.

The 17-year-old girl later admitted to deputies that she was using heroin and had been for awhile, Myers said.

Deputies confiscated drug paraphernalia from the car, he said.

The teenager had been in treatment as recently as the past month or so, the sheriff said.

“Even if someone gets help, heroin is very addictive,” Myers said.

“Kudos to Dean Johnson on that extra effort to look further into this, or we would have been dealing with the death of a 17-year-old,” Myers said.

Talking to teens

Myers asked for parents to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol and let them know the consequences for bad choices.

“No one is immune from this,” Myers said of the epidemic of opioid overdoses that the county is experiencing.

“We’re still seeing overdoses and administering Narcan (naloxone) on a weekly basis,” he said. “Just because you’re not hearing about it every day doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s still happening more frequently than we would like.”

Myers was particularly concerned that the overdose involved a teenage girl who was in a shopping center parking lot at that time of night.

“Parents need to be aware of the warning signs,” he said. “Know where they go, who they are with and when they will be home. Monitor cellphones and Internet activity. The signs are there — a change in behavior, personality or physical appearance and a change in friends.”

Myers said parents of teenagers should plan on attending the upcoming event, “Moving the Needle: Community Forum,” at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at The Commons. Author Sam Quinones will discuss his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” and psychiatrist Kendall Stewart will also give a presentation.

“If you have teenage kids, you need to be going to that forum,” he said.