GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Drug overdose deaths remain an epidemic with hundreds of lives lost in West Michigan each year.

Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared it in Michigan as well to shine a light on the thousands of lives lost statewide each year.

Fentanyl is causing many of the deaths, including the loss of 21-year-old Christopher Kramer in Kent County. Thursday morning, 43-year-old James Levanduski was sentenced in 17th Circuit Court for providing Kramer the fentanyl that caused his death.

On April 7, 2022, Levanduski gave Kramer cocaine at a home on Coleman Street Southeast. Levanduski said he didn’t know it was laced with fentanyl.

“I live with this every single day of my life man,” Levanduski, now 43, said at his Thursday sentencing. “I wish I would’ve made a better decision.”

After Kramer unknowingly consumed the fentanyl, he called his father for help.

“Unfortunately, David (Kramer) had already seen the impact,” said Jennifer Banfill, Chris Kramer’s aunt. “He urged him to call 911. David and my sister arrived there just as EMS came in.”

Chris Kramer’s parents tried saving his life, but it was too late.

“Definitely for David and my sister, that’s something you can’t get out of your head,” Banfill said. “They were there from the very beginning.”

Since Chris Kramer’s death, his father and brothers have struggled with depression, lost pay and almost the loss of their home.

“Their kids are suffering,” Banfill said. “My youngest nephew, who is 9, is in counseling because he doesn’t understand why his brother could not come back.”

Kent County Circuit Judge Scott Noto told Levanduski he had “no reason to doubt” he did not intend to kill Kramer. The judge then said Levanduski should have never put himself in that position in the first place.

“The consequences of this action were significant,” Noto said. “The actions were careless. You may not have known fentanyl was in that drug, but the risk was nonetheless there.”

Noto sentenced Levanduski to a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven-and-a-half years in prison. Levanduski told the judge he remains agonized by his mistake.

“I just want to apologize to the family,” Levanduski said. “It ain’t gonna bring him back. I have mental issues dealing with this myself. I can’t sleep at night. I’m just terribly sorry this happened.”

Kramer’s family criticized the judge’s sentencing, arguing that Levanduski should spend the rest of his life in prison.

“He’s responsible for taking a life; he should’ve received life,” Banfill said. “It would be only fair. He got in trouble in the past. He has a history. He’s no good to anyone out here in society.”

Even through the Kramer family’s emotional turmoil, Banfill told Chris Kramer’s younger brother that there’s still light.

“I talked to him at the funeral and just told him to look at the sun,” she said. “Every time the sun shines, your brother’s looking at you.”

In 2020, more than 2,700 people across Michigan died from drug overdoses. Most of them involved opioids.

Richard Pazder is the task force commander for Michigan State Police’s Southwest Enforcement Team. The group aims to take drug dealers off the streets and remove lethal drugs to prevent the loss of more lives.

“It’s been an epidemic in southwest Michigan for a number of years now and it just continues to get worse,” Pazder told News 8.

Pazder said situations like Chris Kramer’s death happen “all too frequently.”

“A lot of times what drug dealers are trying to do is they’re trying to differentiate their product or create a situation where their high lasts longer or has more intense euphoric effect,” he said.

Southwest Michigan has lost 183 lives this year to drug overdoses, Pazder said. Most of them involved fentanyl. The region is on pace to hit nearly 300 by the end of the year.

Pazder said there has never been a better time to seek help for addiction. MSP has an angel program where a volunteer guides people through the drug treatment process, even providing transportation to rehab centers.

“If you’re a drug dealer on the street, I want you to know we will find you and we will prosecute you if you are selling drugs that are killing people,” Pazder said. “We will prosecute you.”