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Western District of Michigan U.S. Attorney says opioid crisis “a matter of saving lives”

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge photo
Patrick Center

The United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Michigan held a news conference Thursday addressing the area’s opioid crisis. 

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge explains the situation is “a matter of saving lives” pointing out that during 2017 in Kent County there were 137 drug overdose deaths – a 50-percent increase over the number reported in 2016. Across the Midwest opioid overdoses are up 70-percent during that same period.

“As prosecutors we know this trend began with prescription drugs. Prescription drugs lead to heroin addiction and fentanyl bought of the street. About 80-percent of heroin users report using prescription drugs before heroin and heroin and fentanyl are the major causes of opioid overdose deaths. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and an opioid analog called Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. And sadly sometimes these drugs get mixed in with heroin on the street.”

U.S. Attorney Birge has a message for drug dealers.

“If you are involved in transporting or importing fentanyl and mixing fentanyl with heroin you should consider yourself a federal target. You are an interest to my office.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office is also working on prevention programs with community partners by discouraging potential users. That includes educating young people. There’s a preservation component partnering with medical and treatment professionals assisting citizens with substance abuse disorders and providing overdose antidotes.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.