Public overdoses evidence of growing opioid crisis

1 dead, 1 hospitalized after apparent OD in bathroom of Grand Rapids McDonald's

Authorities on scene of two apparent overdoses on Shaffer Avenue near 28th Street in Kentwood on Feb. 22, 2017. (ReportIt)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Overdoses in public places aren’t so unusual anymore.

The Grand Rapids Police Department has not released the name of the man who died Wednesday afternoon after being found in the bathroom of the McDonald’s restaurant at 1100 Leonard St. NW. GRPD’s Major Case Team is investigating the double overdose that killed the 37-year-old man and sent another man, also 37, to the hospital.

In recent years in West Michigan, overdose victims have been found in bathrooms of restaurants, a coffee shop, grocery store parking lots, roadside trails and hotels.

>>Inside A Killer Among Us

The 911 call from a February 2017 overdose at a Kent County movie theater offered insight into what an overdose looks like.

“I’m calling from Celebration! Cinema South, and we have a guest here… and we think he’s on something,” the theater employee told a Kent County dispatcher.

The call came in around 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, from the theater off Kalamazoo Avenue near M-6 in Gaines Township.

“He’s out in the lobby and he’s acting really strange, and he’s left his two little boys inside the theater,” the employee reported to the dispatcher. “We’re afraid he might be overdosing on something.”

“Did he pass out?” asked the dispatcher.

“No, we’re holding him up right now,” the employee responded. “I think that one of my other managers is grabbing a wheelchair for him… He’s not communicating at all.”

When emergency crews arrived, the man was sitting in a wheelchair with his head tipped forward.

“His eyes were shut,” wrote a Kent County sheriff’s deputy in his report. “I opened his left eyelid and saw that his pupil was pinpoint. I touched his eyeball and he didn’t move. I felt for a carotid pulse. I could feel that his heart was racing. I could not see a chest rise or hear him taking breaths.”

Cutlerville firefighters administered the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and a couple minutes later, the 33-year-old dad from Jenison, started coming around.

He never admitted to using drugs in the theater, though deputies learned he had abused opioids in the past and was on methadone, a drug used to wean people off heroin.

The man told deputies that he had left two 10-year-old boys in the theater and gone to the bathroom, but said he didn’t remember anything after that.

Five days later, and less than 10 miles away, there was another public overdose.

A Kent County sheriff’s deputy noticed three people apparently passed out in a vehicle in the middle of Shaffer Avenue SE just south of 28th Street.

“Just be advised each has had one dose Narcan (naloxone), not waking,” an emergency responder reported over his radio.

All three were ultimately saved thanks to emergency crews.

With public overdoses happening more and more often, health officials say it’s more important than ever that you know the symptoms and how to respond.

If you come across someone you think is overdosing, call 911 immediately.

Emergency medical experts say what you do beyond that depends entirely on how comfortable you are, for instance if you have first aid training and/or experience.

>>PDF: Opioid overdose first aid

It’s important to remember, however, that some opioids, even in residue form, are extremely dangerous — even deadly — to the touch.

If you have friends or family who use opioids, whether it’s prescription pain medication or heroin, experts advise that you keep naloxone on hand to use in the event of an overdose.



Download: Opioid overdoses 101 (PowerPoint)

PDF: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on naloxone

PDF: SAMHSA safety advice for patients and family members of opioid users