GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who died of a heroin overdose in the bathroom of a Grand Rapids McDonald’s six weeks ago had overdosed at a different restaurant earlier the same day, police records show.
The employee of the restaurant on Leonard Street NW who called 911 on the afternoon of May 31 sounded a little breathless, but overall composed as she described what was happening.
“I have two guys passed out in my men’s room. They’re not responding. I can’t even get through the door,” she told a dispatcher.
Emergency responders administered the overdose reversal drug naloxone and rushed one of the men, 37, to the hospital.
The other, also 37, did not survive.
Nine hours earlier, that same man had been found barely conscious, needles nearby, on the floor of the bathroom at Arnie’s Restaurant — less than a mile from where he would later die.
Public overdoses are no longer unheard of. Across the street from Arnie’s, Ralph’s Market started keeping the bathroom locked a few months ago after a man overdosed and would have died had a worker not found him.
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For a year, the Kent County Opioid Task Force has worked to decrease overdose deaths, in part by increasing access to naloxone. Task force members said that the average person trained in the use of that drug has witnessed six overdoses.
At a Thursday meeting of the task force, the Grand Rapids Red Project presented the findings of a Target 8 investigation that dug into the backgrounds of 84 people who died of opioid overdoses in Kent County in 2015 — the deadliest year the county has seen yet. The task force noted the diversity of the background of those killed and the complexity of the problems they faced in life.
The opioid epidemic demands a solution as multifaceted as the crisis itself. The community must do more than pass out naloxone kits, some of the task members concluded.
“My concern is five years, 10 years from now, we’re still going to be just keeping people alive if we don’t get upstream a little bit and figure out what’s causing people to use these opioids,” Joann Hoganson of the Kent County Health Department said.
The health department is seeking a grant to do more of what Target 8 has been doing: investigate how people start down the road to opioid use and conduct social autopsies on those who die as a result of opioid use each year.
Police are still investigating who supplied the heroin to the two men who overdosed in the McDonald’s.