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Heroin overdoses raising concerns in West Michigan

Posted at 11:34 PM, Feb 05, 2016

WEST MICHIGAN -18 drug overdoses in nine days, four of which were fatal, now raising serious concerns throughout multiple counties.

Calhoun County Sheriff, Matt Saxton, said the four fatal overdoses stretched from Homer to Battle Creek, Marshall, and Pennfield townships.

"With the heroin being sold on the street corner at $20 a pop or whatever the charge is, there’s no way for that user to know the purity of the heroin," said Saxton. "The heroin is cut multiple times from its purest form, so the user doesn’t know the purity, the user doesn’t know what that heroin has been cut with.

With heroin getting cut multiple times, police are worried the drug is getting mixed with a potent pain killer called Fentanyl, creating a toxic mix when the two are cut together.

Thursday, Kalamazoo County narcotics investigators arrested two people on felony charges after tracking a large amount of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana to the 1100 block of Mount Royal Dr. in Oshtemo Township.

"I mean we have to work on it from our end but 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.

Local non-profits like the Red Project has been helping educate addicts on HIV and Hepatitis prevention for years. You may have seen their mobile health unit making the rounds in Kent County. Red Project Program Manager, Brandon Hool, understands drug overdoses have become the company's main priority since 2008.

"The last 15 years in Kent County we’ve seen a six-fold increase in overdose death, so a huge increase," said Hool. "Nationally, overdose has increased three-fold, so we’re higher than the national average. Michigan is one of the 16 states where drug overdoses kill more people than car accidents. It’s the leading cause of accidental death in this state and in the country."

The Red Project now educates their clients on how to identify drug overdoses and pass our sterile syringes during their visits. They've also been passing out the anti-dote for drug overdoses since 2008, Naloxone Hydrochloride, a miracle drug now aiding local law enforcement in their fight against overdoses.

"It's really simple, we’re using the nasal spray," said Saxton. "I’d like to say its cop-proof, we can’t mess it up."

The Red Project reports 288 overdose reversals since 2008 through education and the help of Narcan.