Two firefighter heroin overdose stories in 24 hours

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Read the The News Tribune story about Ramsey Mueller

When there are two stories from opposite ends of the country within 24 hours about firefighters overdosing on heroin something tells me this may be an issue we should be paying attention to.

Yesterday (Friday) KDKA-TV reported that a Pittsburgh firefighter had to be revived by Narcan because of a heroin overdose while he was working overtime on New Years Eve:

Sources tell KDKA that the firefighter, who was working overtime, passed out in what’s called the sitting room. Sources confirm his line mates tried to wake him up and couldn’t.

Sources confirm fellow firefighters, aware of his heroin addiction, used Narcan to revive him. He was hospitalized. Now he’s suspended for 10 days and in rehab.

The line in the KDKA-TV story claiming that fellow firefighters were aware of the firefighter’s heroin addiction is one that opens up a lot of questions.

You will also likely have many more questions after reading the story published today by Sean Robinson of The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington. It’s about a Tacoma Fire Department firefighter who died of a heroin overdose a day after he resigned from the department:

Ramsey Mueller dreamed of saving others, but he couldn’t save himself.

A year ago, he took the first steps toward his lifelong dream of becoming a Tacoma firefighter. Seven months later, he died in his Tacoma home of a heroin overdose at the age of 27, a day after resigning from the department, two days after coming late to a morning shift, slurring his words and nearly hitting another vehicle while briefly taking the wheel of a firetruck.

Ramsey Mueller was the son of Tacoma Fire Department Deputy Chief Faith Mueller. The article says Ramsey Mueller was hired despite multiple contacts with police about his drug addiction.

Public records and interviews show commanders didn’t know about Mueller’s history of drug abuse when he was hired —in part because he didn’t tell them, in part because the background check system didn’t capture specific details of police contacts and finally because department leaders, following what they say is formal policy, didn’t ask.

Further, Faith Mueller, one of the department’s top-level commanders, didn’t disclose her knowledge of her son’s history to Duggan, who made the final hiring decision. Conversely, Duggan had hints of red flags, but didn’t pursue them.

Ramsey Mueller’s death and the aftermath have prompted soul-searching among department leaders, including Duggan, who said he plans to re-examine the department’s hiring system.

Read entire article

I strongly suggest you read the entire article from Sean Robinson. There’s probably a lot to learn from the painful story of Ramsey Mueller.

In addition, those interested in how the news media does its job reporting a difficult story like this should read the column by editor Karen Peterson. Peterson gives details on how this story came together over a ten month period. As is often the case, it began with a tip about a mostly unrelated story involving the Tacoma Fire Department.