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LOOKING AT THE DATA: Opioid-related calls and deaths in Kent Co. within 2022

Between January 1 and September 21, the Grand Rapids Fire Department responded to 207 overdose calls.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Fire Department and EMS are responding to suspected opiate overdose calls nearly every day in 2022.

Additionally, fentanyl overdose deaths remain high in Kent County.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 21, the fire department responded to 207 overdose calls.

In 2021, they responded to 390.

"So far we're almost to the end of the third quarter and those numbers are just about the same for suspected opioid overdoses," said Stephen MacBride, the EMS Coordinator with GRFD. 

It's difficult for EMS personnel to know what was in the patient's medication, however one thing is known.

"The labs are mixing fentanyl in a lot of different medications including cocaine and some of the drugs you might not expect," said MacBride.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

The latest numbers from the Kent County Medical Examiner show there have been 162 Opioid-related overdose deaths of Kent County residents between Jan. and July.

There were 478 total in 2021.

Credit: WZZM 13

Dr. Michael Vizachero, an addiction specialist at Spectrum Health, told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that a majority of new patients at their Community Medicine Clinic have fentanyl present in their system.

"It's responsible for over 90% of the opiate-related deaths in Kent County, so it's a huge issue," said Vizachero.

"There are times when police arrive first and they might give a dose of Narcan," said MacBride. "We'll wait to see if they need another dose." 

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 21, Narcan was administered in 173 incidents in which GRFD responded.

It's close to last year's total number of 237.

The fire department began tracking any administration of Narcan, by police, bystanders or family in 2020.

"When we have folks dying in the street, that's tough to take for EMS providers," said MacBride.

In Sept. 2021, the DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of fake pills.  

Additional resources for parents and the community can be found on DEA's Fentanyl Awareness page.

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