BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Health officials in Battle Creek say action is needed to fight a growing number of opioid overdoses and that many of those involve fentanyl.
A new report says deaths connected to fentanyl have more than quadrupled in the last two years.
Calhoun County Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton said, “Since it's so powerful it makes it so much easier to overdose"
Cheryl Rudd knows the pain of losing someone to drugs. She says she is not surprised by an alarming increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl, an opioid that can be prescribed by a doctor but is also made illegally.
Rudd said, “I pray that nobody has to witness their own child having a heroin overdose."
Doctors say the illegal fentanyl is driving the epidemic.
Rudd said, “I have friends that are going down that path. It's just a revolving thing, it's one after another after another and I’ve heard that now more than heroin."
Nettleton said the number of opioid related deaths in Calhoun County is very high for the population.
The death rate per 100,000 people in 2016 nearly doubled the rate of the entire state.
Health officials are implementing a focused plan of action.
Nettleton said, “Prevention and education, supply and control of opioid, both illegal opioids and prescribes opioids, treatment and harm reduction, meaning preventing fatal overdoses and drug related infections."
Opioid overdoses are an issue throughout West Michigan. Earlier in May, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller stopped for dinner and ended up saving the lives of two men overdosing on heroin in a parking lot.
Fuller said, “They both admitted to having an addiction to heroin."
As fentanyl becomes a bigger problem, Rudd said the community needs to come together.
She said, 'We're not going to stand for this no more we need to keep fighting and fighting and never give up, never."
More people die of a drug overdose than died in car crashes, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human services has resources for those seeing treatment for opioid addiction.