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Calhoun Co. fighting surge in heroin overdoses

Posted at 4:42 PM, Feb 05, 2016

MARSHALL, Mich. — Small towns across the country have come face-to-face with the growing heroin epidemic that’s been ravaging their neighborhoods. Small towns in Michigan are no different. Calhoun County alone has seen 18 overdoses in the last nine days. Four of them fatal.

“From Homer to Battle Creek, Marshall, Pennfield were the four fatal overdoses,” said Sheriff Matt Saxton with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. “The overdoses that we know of within the law enforcement community have been spread throughout the county as well.”

Saxton said the deaths could stem from a new ingredient called Fentanyl. The drug is typically used to treat severe pain. But when it’s mixed with heroin it makes for a very potent, and sometimes lethal, dose. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Fentanyl makes heroin 30-50 times more powerful. To gather more data, the sheriff’s office has teamed up with local health officials.

“We started a conversation with the Health Department's Substance Abuse Council trying to look at ways we could better track heroin overdoses so we can get a true picture of what is going on here in Calhoun country which is really not much different than whether you’re in Ohio, Alabama, California,” said Saxton. “Its a national epidemic.”

Saxton added that  sheriffs in Calhoun County are applying Narcan to save lives. It’s a nasal spray that immediately reverses the affects of an overdose the moment it’s administered. Some places are using the drug injection form of Narcan.

“Battle Creek city has already had one saved with it,” said Saxton. “In Washtenaw County, they’ve had it at their use and their tool box for five months, they’ve had 11 saves just from their deputies alone.”

Saxton said in order to combat the issue and keep heroin out of neighborhoods, it’s going to take a collective effort from all residents: parents, teachers, doctors and religious leaders too.

“It’s a community issue that will take a community to decrease the amount of overdoses we’re seeing and to get those addicted the help that they need,” said Saxton.