Mark Strickland knew he wanted to be a first responder when he was five years old. "It was a way to help people," he told me. "You're giving everything you've got to help people in distress, no matter what it may be."
When he first started working as an EMT in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia back in the 1990s, Mark says that his job rarely involved reviving people after drug overdoses. But in recent years, as heroin and other opioids have ravaged the Charleston community, he says that's changed. Overdose calls are a near-daily occurrence for Mark and his colleagues—in fact, he got was called away to one while we talked.
While the national opioid overdose death rate has been steadily climbing over the last several years, nowhere is the situation more dire than in West Virginia. In 2015, the state had the highest drug overdose death rate in the country, at 41.5 per 100,000 deaths. Mark and his colleagues see the people behind those statistics. And when they see the same patient