GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. surpassed has 100,000 in a 12-month period for the first time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new data from the CDC tracks deadly overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021. It showed a 29% increase in such deaths nationwide from the previous 12 months. During the same period, Michigan’s rate of drug overdoses jumped 19%.
But during the same period, Kent County actually saw numbers trend down. The county health department reported 14% fewer drug overdose deaths than the previous 12 months.
The vast majority of all drug overdoses around the country are related to opioid misuse. In Kent County, nearly 90% of 96 total overdoses were linked to opioids. And of those opioid overdoses, 90% involved the powerful drug fentanyl.
The Kent County Opioid Task Force, which works to reduce abuse, attributed the county’s bucking of the national trend to the availability of resources.
Among those is The Grand Rapids Red Project, a community-based organization that tries to get the overdose reversal drug naloxone, more commonly known by distribution brand Narcan, into the hands of people who may need it. You can get Narcan from a vending machine outside its location on Hall Street SE at Madison Avenue.
Steve Alsum, the executive director of The Red Project, says the program’s efforts have acted as a buffer to keep death numbers down locally.
“Because of Red Project distributing naloxone like we do, there’s about 100, 200 less deaths each year in Kent County,” he said.
So far in 2021, the project has handed out 12,000 naloxone rescue kits throughout the county.
“As a result of that distribution, there’s been about 500 times that an individual that got a naloxone kit from our program used that rescue kit to reverse an overdose successfully in the community and save a life,” Alsum said.
But health officials warn that even though Kent County has seen lower numbers than the nation recently, they can easily rise.
“It’s important that we understand the trend that’s happening nationally because Kent County isn’t immune to that at all. We need to be prepared for the future and prepared for that trend to occur in our county,” Kent County Opioid Task Force Co-Chair Rachel Jantsz said.