BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Over the last few weeks, law enforcement officials say they’ve seen an increase in heroin activity. Dozens of people have been rushed to emergency rooms throughout Calhoun County while others have gone to the morgue.
“Some of the numbers for November through Lifecare Ambulance service, is up close to 60,” said Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton about the number of overdoses. “The corresponding month last year was half of that.”
Since Thanksgiving, at least six people have overdosed and two have died, he said. He believes the recent surge in heroin-activity stems from a new batch circulating on the streets, one that’s laced with carfentanil — a synthetic opioid found in elephant tranquilizers.
“Oftentimes when we see spikes, our biggest concern is what the heroin is being cut with, whether it’s fentanyl or carfentanil,” said Sheriff Saxton during an interview at the Calhoun County courthouse. “With the carfentanil, just a speck of it on bare skin could cause of deadly overdose.”
The drug is so powerful, he said, that it can be deadly with just one hit. It’s 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
“On the law enforcement side of things, there’s a greater health risk to our men and women out there,” said Sheriff Saxton. “If they come into contact with it on bare skin or inhale it, it could cause immediate death.”
The same goes for first responders and healthcare providers, he said. People who handle these types of situations are typically covered head-to-toe. Unfortunately, users are not and the drug is easily accessible.
“With carfentanil, folks are buying that one on the internet from foreign countries and bringing it in where there’s less regulation on it,” said Sheriff Saxton. “With the internet it's probably, unfortunately, easier now than it would’ve been 15 years ago.”
Sheriff Saxton said that local law enforcement agencies and hospitals have been working shoulder-to-shoulder in combating the issue. But it’s going to take a village to curb the epidemic in Calhoun County. He believes the solution begins in the home.
“There’s many options for addicts to get the help needed,” said Sheriff Saxton. “But my message would more directly be to those family members that know their loved one has a addiction and maybe [add] pressure from that side to get them to get the help.”