Slight dip in fatal ODs in Kent Co., but plague persists

Overdose figures for 2016 are preliminary, will likely change

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County is reporting a slight decrease in fatal drug overdoses in 2016.

Even so, addictions to opiate-based drugs like heroin and painkillers continue to devastate more lives than ever.

Here are Kent County’s preliminary numbers for overdose deaths in 2016, as well as comparisons to prior years:

2016

  • All overdoses:  90
  • Heroin: 20

Seven cases from 2016 cases are still pending toxicology results so the numbers will likely change slightly

2015

  • All overdoses: 109
  • Heroin: 32

2014

  • All overdoses: 75
  • Heroin: 19

Forensic pathologist Dr. David Start said the 2016 numbers showed a “mild decrease.” While the 2016 numbers are headed in the right direction, Start does not consider it a “significant” reduction.

Meanwhile, ramped-up efforts to combat what’s been called an opioid epidemic continue. The state has stepped up prevention efforts, with all first responders now carrying the drug naloxone — also called Narcan — which can reverse the effects an overdose. Authorities say it’s saving lives.

Next week, the Kent County Medical Society Alliance and Families Against Narcotics are hosting an event for parents of middle- and high-schoolers to learn about opioid addiction prevention, including what signs to look for and how to talk to your kids about the issue.

The free event runs from 7 p.m. to 9 pm. Wednesday at the Kent Intermediate School District building at 2930 Knapp St. NE in Grand Rapids. Parking will be available in Lot #11.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is also facilitating a prescription drug take-back before the event starting at 6:30 p.m., so you can bring old and leftover drugs to be properly disposed of.

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Online:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid overdoses

The Grand Rapids Red Project

Families Against Narcotics