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Three suspicious deaths in Flint blamed on possible overdoses

An organization aimed at helping the addicted community into recovery says overdoses have been on the rise
Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Flint and Michigan State Police responded to three suspicious deaths in three days at homes in all corners of the city, at all hours of the day.

All three are men and range in age from 40 to 50 years old. It’s believed they all died of drug overdoses.

Overdoses have increased dramatically over the last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, an organization aimed at helping the addicted community says a specific drug is causing deaths to rise too.

“Our addicted population has a tendency to crave the most potent drug that there is, and fentanyl has risen to the top of that,” Aaron Rubio, president of the United Community Addiction Network or UCAN, explained.

He said right now drug dealers are mixing fentanyl in with everything. In 2016, Rubio said fentanyl contributed to about 25% of overdose deaths and it has been on the rise since. The drug is blamed for causing 65% of overdose deaths in 2019.

“It may take, where we typically have a general overdose of heroin, maybe like one or two doses of Naloxone, where fentanyl might require double that three or four to make sure,” Rubio said.

Fentanyl lasts longer, too. If someone is revived from an overdose, Rubio said they need to go to the hospital, because they’re finding that same usage could cause another overdose shortly after.

“It’s a rollercoaster ride and gets very, very complicated,” he said.

UCAN partners with the University of Michigan to track overdose activity in Genesee County, using information from first responders.

Rubio said February saw the typical average of 30 overdoses every two weeks, but deaths have steadily increased from three to eight people dying. They’re using this data to better react to the county’s situation.

“Paramedics are dispatched to every overdose in Genesee County. But again, with spikes in overdoses, we only have so many units that can only cover so much ground,” he said. “It gets very, very complicated for sure.”

Right now, Rubio said the data shows Tuesdays are the most popular day for the addicted community to use. UCAN plans to work with EMS to position units in certain parts of the county where they know overdoses typically happen. The hope is a quicker response time will save more lives.

Help is available for anyone struggling with addiction. Dozens of Michigan police departments participate in the Hope Not Handcuffs program.

Here’s how it works: Agencies link struggling addicts up with an advocate who connects them with resources and rehab. This “angel” is trained to handle problems with compassion and respect, rather than judgment or prosecution.

Since February 2017, Hope Not Handcuffs has helped over 5,300 people.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says fighting the opioid epidemic is a critical priority. It has a seven-layer plan to address this crisis in 2021. Key points include prevention, treatment, equity and harm reduction.

Just last week the state health department focused in on that last one, launching a new ad-campaign called “Change At Your Own Pace.” Real life Michiganders share their experiences with substance abuse and why it’s so important to have access to naloxone and new, sterile syringes.

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