Macomb County deputies equipped to counter overdoses

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — Macomb County Sheriff’s deputies now are equipped with nasal spray designed to counter drugs such as heroin when they respond to suspected overdose calls.

The nasal spray Naxalone, when quickly administered, can reverse the effects of some drugs. It has already saved a life, said Lt. John Michalke. Deputies Tuesday got a call about a 37-year-old Mount Clemens man who was breathing but unconscious.

“The deputy sprayed two shots up the man’s nostrils and within two minutes, he was responsive,” said Michalke.

It’s part of the department’s Opiod Overdose Prevention Program and a policy a local drug overdose prevention group hopes will spread to all first responders.

Macomb isn’t the first to try the prevention program. Many first responders in Traverse City and Grand Rapids are equipped with Naxalone, said Judge Linda Davis of the 41B District Court in Clinton Township.

Davis, the president of Families Against Narcotics, a nonprofit working to prevent addiction, said Chesterfield Township and New Baltimore police departments soon will get the drug.

“Our ultimate goal is by the end of June to have this in every police and first-responder vehicle in the county, as well as in the hands of parents and friends of those battling addiction,” said Davis.

Nationwide, deaths from prescription painkillers quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. In 2013, nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were dependent on opioids, and more than 16,000 people died from the prescription variety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 8,000 other deaths involved heroin, to which many addicts migrate after becoming addicted to legal drugs.

According to a report issued in fall 2013 by the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, Michigan has the 18th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the nation.

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 16 drug overdose deaths this year. In 2013, drug-related deaths in Macomb County jumped 33 percent, according to the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office’s annual report in May 2014.

There were 244 drug-related deaths, up from 184 in 2012, with a 28 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in 2013. Prescription drug deaths rose 36 percent.

Those numbers may not reflect all drug-related deaths, experts said. Davis and others are working to create a system to better collect overdose information.

(313) 222-2613