GRFD: Opioid epidemic growing at alarming rate

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities say the three people found unresponsive in a car on a Kentwood road on Wednesday had all overdosed on heroin. First responders used Narcan — a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose — to treat them.

Grand Rapids Fire Department Capt. Mark Frankhauser was not shocked by Wednesday’s case because the number of prescription drug, opioid and heroin overdose calls his department has been responding to has skyrocketed.

“It is something that is now being recognized more readily and attention’s being brought to the forefront for this problem that we’re seeing,” Frankhauser said.

He showed 24 Hour News 8 how crews administer a dose of Narcan — a brand name of the drug naloxone — to patients with a simple nasal spray.

In 2016, Grand Rapids police and fire administered Narcan 114 times. This year, they’ve already administered 29 doses.

Kent County sheriff’s deputies and EMS used Narcan 164 times last year.

Frankhauser showed 24 Hour News 8 GRFD’s “managing for daily improvement board,” where along with cardiac arrests, the department lists the number of Narcan uses annually, by quarter and month. Because those cases have become such a priority, Narcan uses are now reported weekly at a Monday department meeting.

Frankhauser said the opioid and heroin epidemic doesn’t discriminate.

“Whether they’re from the inner city, whether they’re from suburban area, it’s reaching everyone, young and old,” Frankhauser said. “People make mistakes. And oftentimes, they don’t understand the severity of the medication they’re dealing with or the product they’re dealing with.”

It’s a problem that The Grand Rapids Red Project — a local addiction outreach program — says is rooted in a pill-popping society.

“These are friends, family members, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who are dying,” Red Project Development Coordinator Brian Keeley said. “We all experience pain. These medications are an effective way to treat pain. However, they’re also a very high-risk way of managing pain.”

As the community looks for resources to help those struggling with addiction, the Grand Rapids chapter of Families Against Narcotics is holding its first family forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on N. Division Avenue.—–Online:The Grand Rapids Red ProjectFamilies Against Narcotics

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