U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge explained efforts to catch drug dealers after major increases in drug overdose deaths in West Michigan.
Birge said the situation is “a matter of saving lives.”
He pointed 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," said Birge. "Prescription drugs lead to heroin addiction and Fentanyl bought off 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.”
Birge also had 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,” said Birge.
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.