During the course of February the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office reported six drug-related incidents in Delhi Township/Holt, three of which involved heroin or opioids, twice forcing officials to administer the overdose-reversing substance Narcan in order to revive the subjects.
The Narcan incidences occurred within four days of each other, underscoring what’s become a nationwide heroin and opioid epidemic that’s silently slipped into and gripped rural communities.
Ingham County administered Narcan 255 times during the course of 2016 to overdose subjects — 13 more than the 2015 overall total. By Jan. 28 of this year, Narcan was used 36 times.
In 2003 only 14 people died in Ingham County from opioid overdoses. In 2008, only six. In 2012 it jumped to 29. By 2013 the number bumped to 40 before reaching a record over the last 13 years of 74 opioid-related deaths in 2016.
“The epidemic is here to stay,” Ingham County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dennis Hull said. “All we can do is combat it.”
Heroin, a schedule one drug along with marijuana and LSD among others, has presented itself as the nation’s newest abuse outlet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported drug overdose deaths in the United States “nearly tripled during 1999–2014” and “in 2014, among 47,055 drug overdose deaths, 61% involved an opioid.”
“We supply our officers, each and everyone of them, with doses of Narcan to combat it and there’s some calls that we get on, two doses isn’t even enough to bring them back,” Hull said.
While Holt has not seen a staggering number of overdose deaths or even the majority of Ingham County’s opioid overdoses, it’s slipped into the community sparingly.
“It started coming around five, six years ago and within the last two years it’s just crazy,” Hull said.
One of the overdose calls in February was for a 56-year-old woman who tried to commit suicide via deliberate overdose on medication. Another subject was unresponsive in his vehicle, administered Narcan and was later found to be “spending approximately $1000.00 per week for synthetic heroin,” according to the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office monthly report given to Delhi Township.
Opioid abuse and use has swung largely upward over the last five years and creeped into many counties across the country because of their wide use in the medical field. Many patients prescribed vicodin and other painkillers have fallen into reliance or abuse on the drug.
“Heroin is so cheap on the streets to buy,” Hull said. “Once you get addicted to pain medication and the opiates … this is so much cheaper to buy in the black market and it’s so much stronger than it’s ever been.”
Tracking the opioids and heroin or stopping the sale of the transactions of them has it’s complications.
“There’s no boundaries,” Hull said. “It’s a product that’s easily transported, it’s not like a heroin house that you go to use, not like an old crack house where you go and you smoke crack. You get your stuff and go, it’s very mobile.”
Hull however did mention there were heroin busts within the county the none had occurred in Delhi Township in the last year.
As for the community response, the epidemic hits close to home for Delhi Township Board of Trustees member Tom Lenard. Originally from a rural town, Lenard has seen the effects first hand and is looking to protect Delhi Township.
“Unfortunately I think it sneaks up on people,” Lenard said. “I have family members who have had issues with it, you know I have a back injury myself.”
Lenard however has tried to be on the combative side, pushing for awareness and
“You saw a lot of federal funding trying to tackle the issue,” Lenard said. “I think that we’re just a part of that wave (the epidemic) of what’s going on but on the positive side I think there’s at least more awareness than there has been.”
While Lenard said there’s nothing in the works from Delhi Township to combat the issue though the county does do a drug take back day. Drug take back days are day to drop off unused medication to the county in order for the county to probably dispose of the medication and keep the unused drugs from being abused.
“Between the increased awareness and the increased efforts on prevention, enforcement and treatment, a comprehensive approach, we’re going to be able to ratchet that down both locally, here in Delhi, but also across the state and the country,” Lenard said.