MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - As the heroin epidemic grows in Mid-Michigan, more and more police, firefighters and emergency responders are carrying around a life-saving drug.
Naloxone, a.k.a. NARCAN, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes...and even seconds.
"What it does is it reverses the signs and symptoms of someone that has overdosed on heroin or any kind of opiate-based prescription medication," said Capt. Mike Royer with the Bangor Township Fire Department.
Heroin and other opioid use is becoming a rapidly increasing problem across the country. In May, the Bay County Health Officer told ABC12 this county saw 27 deaths related to heroin and other opioids in 2015. According to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Bay County had just seven in 2014.
All firefighters in Bangor Township are trained to administer NARCAN. Royer says a state mandate required all fire departments to have it in October. Since then, Bangor Township firefighters have used NARCAN seven times.
The Lapeer County Sheriff's Office acquired NARCAN three months ago. Sheriff Ron Kalanquin says all of his deputies are trained to administer, but none have had to yet.
The department pays for the NARCAN through drug forfeiture money, but even without that money, Sheriff Kalanquin says he'd fight to have NARCAN in his vehicles.
"It's worth it. It's nice to have drug forfeiture money because that way the county taxpayer dollars aren't involved, but of course, I would go lobby for it [regardless]," he said. "This should be part of your first aid kit."
Sheriff's departments in Genesee, Bay, Midland and Lapeer counties all carry NARCAN. Tuscola County is wrapping up the training needed to use it. Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel tells ABC12 his department is looking for funding for that training. All join the growing number of police departments carrying NARCAN in response to the epidemic of heroin and opioid addictions.
According to the CDC, the number of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. quadrupled between 1999 and 2014.
Travis Chapin, 30, ended up in the Lapeer County Jail because of his drug addiction nearly two years ago. He's been smoking marijuana since age 11 and first tried heroin at age 15. Today, he's been sober almost a year, thanks to recovery programs he joined while behind bars. Chapin says these programs may be the key to battling America's addiction problem.
"I wish every jail could be like Lapeer County Jail. They just offer a wide variety of programs that help people instead of just locking people up and forgetting about them," he said. "My life's on track and I'm doing good things now."
As for stopping the heroin epidemic altogether, Chapin believes it's too easy for people to get their hands on highly-addictive prescription drugs. When those drugs are taken away, he says people look to drugs like heroin and other opioids.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services breaks down the number of heroin and opioid deaths by county. For information on your county, click under 'Related Documents'.