Heroin overdoses raising concerns in West Michigan

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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.


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  • Kevin Rahe

    How many of these overdoses (and use of drugs in general) are experienced by people who grew up in an intact family vs. those who grew up fatherless or experienced divorce?

  • Joe Bidden

    The war on pain and the pressure the DEA puts on doctors who prescribe pain medicine have left many people who suffer without their medicine. This forces them to seek alternative treatment which leads them to using heroin. The DEA shouldn’t be involved in who doctors prescribe medicine to. Instead they should just stay focused on people who sell or are caught with something not prescribed on their person.

    Doctors and pharmacies are only allowed to dispense so many prescriptions per month. If they go over that amount they get audited by the DEA.

    If someone has a prescription for medical marijuana and also receives a pain killers and both show up in their now forced monthly drug tests, then they are fired by their doctor. There is a lot of medical evidence that using medical marijuana helps reduce the amount of additional pain medicine taken.

    Not all people’s pain is relieved with just one or the other. Yes, opiates are bad and addicting, but it should be up to the doctor and the patient to decide what works best for them without DEA being involved.

    Let the DEA go after people on the streets who have not been prescribed that medicine, or who are selling it to others and leave doctors, pharmacies and law abiding citizens alone.

    Until you truly have experienced chronic debilitating pain, you shouldn’t judge how people manage their lives.

    – Joe

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