Overdoses an 'epidemic' in Ottawa County, 2016 on pace for most deaths ever

Deadly New Drug showing up in west Michigan

HOLLAND, MICH. - The drug, Carfentanyl, is responsible for the overdose of two Ohio adults seen in images, which have gone viral.

Now, we've learned one person in Kent County overdosed on that drug. It's the latest incident in a troubling trend, that some West Michigan police are calling an "epidemic."

New numbers show that Ottawa County is on pace to have more overdose deaths in 2016 than ever before if the current trend continues. 

You would think an image, like the one of the Ohio adults overdosing, would be shocking to everyone. However, it's not surprising to Holland police. 

"It doesn't surprise anybody here, only because we see that stuff," says Sergeant Dan Kender, with the Holland Department of Public Safety.

The photo posted by an Ohio police department shows two people passed out from an apparent heroin overdose with a child in the back seat.

"That is the very ugly side of addiction," says Sergeant Kender.

New numbers about drug overdoses locally don't look good either. A graph from the Ottawa County Department of Public Health shows 19 people have already died from overdosing through mid-July of this year.  That includes both accidental and intentional overdoses. 

"If we stay where we are at and on pace to the end of the year, we are going to see more deaths this year than we've ever seen before due to overdoses," says Marcia Mansaray, epidemiologist for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

"When we get three, four, five a week, you hate to see it obviously, but it's like it's an epidemic is what it definitely is, from the last 21 years that I've been here," says Sergeant Kender. 

The data also shows opiates are to blame for a growing percentage of overdose deaths.

"Already partway through 2016, the percentage is higher than 2015 for the whole year," says Mansaray. "We need to look a little bit deeper as far as what kind of opiates they are, is this heroin or are these prescriptions?"

Mansaray says it's possible prescription drugs are to blame for the rising number of deaths in people 65 or older.

"Elderly do have prescriptions, they are suffering from chronic illnesses," says Mansaray.

Police say no one hopes end up like the two adults in Ohio, but the challenge is how to prevent it.

"They didn't go into that thinking, 'I hope we can have a kid and overdose'," says Sergeant Kender.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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