Opioid overdose epidemic prompts action from Muskegon Co. health officials

MUSKEGON, Mich. – The unprecedented number of opioid overdoses has health officials working around the clock to raise awareness and save lives by passing out a life-saving drug free-of-charge to those who need it most.

“We’ve seen a five-fold increase in overdose deaths since 1999 and that’s fairly similar in the surrounding communities including Ottawa, Kent, and Allegan,” said Brandon Hool, Overdose Prevention Program Manager for The Red Project of Muskegon.

Hool and his co-worker, Echo Brown, have made it their life’s work to educate and help people through opioid addiction through education and administering a life-saving drug called Naloxone (Narcan).

“It’s not just heroin that is killing people, a lot of people have this perception of overdoses being related to that but really it’s opioids in general,” Brown said. “The thought is, ‘If I get it from a doctor, it can’t be dangerous or harmful to me,’ and that’s just not the case.”

The Red Project started administering Naloxone in Kent County where Brandon says it’s saved nearly 500 lives since 2008.  With that in mind, Brandon went on to say the overdose rates are double that in Muskegon County, which is why Health West in Muskegon contracted the company to deliver services in their community.

In 2015 alone, Muskegon County saw nearly 300 overdoses requiring the use of Naloxone, according to the Professional Med Team, Inc. Health officials are now fighting what they’re calling an epidemic.

“We’re just not seeing a resolution for it and it seems like it’s getting worse,” said Pam Beane, Director of Access and Correctional Services with Health West.

Beane is also the chairperson for the local Opioid Task Force, a team comprised of health officials, law enforcement and community leaders dedicated to educating the public and fighting the problem.

The task force is working alongside The Red Project and Health West to administer free Naloxone to the public, teach agencies out to use it and brainstorm ways to solve the epidemic.

In an effort to save lives, The Red Project is hosting the county’s first ever Opiate Summit June 29 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Folkert Community Hub, 640 Seminole Rd. in Muskegon.

Community members who attend will receive education on opioid addiction, overdoses and have the opportunity to obtain free Naloxone.

Anyone in Muskegon County is allowed to obtain the life-saving drug at the locations listed below:

  • Mondays – Mercy Life Counseling, located at 125 E. Southern from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Health West, located at  376 Apple Ave. from 1-5 p.m.
  • Tuesdays – Health West from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and East Side Outpatient Services located at 445 E. Sherman.
  • Wednesdays – Mercy Life Counseling from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also reach a Red Project at 231-375-3839 for more information.

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