Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 27, 2014

Benzie officials investigate 2 fatalities as possible overdoses

BEULAH — A second suspected drug overdose death in a week’s time has Benze County Sheriff Ted Schendel troubled over what he considers an epidemic of drug-related fatalities.

Deputies found heroin on the scene of a suspected overdose involving a man, 22, that occurred Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Colfax Township. The incident follows another suspicious death involving a man, 42, in Homestead Township on March 19 that authorities also are investigating as a drug overdose.

“This is like six overdoses in the last two years,” Schendel said. “For our population the ratio of deaths is way too high. It’s frustrating, but I’m doing everything I can.”

Schendel declined to release the names of either victim until he receives toxicology reports that confirm overdose overdose as the cause of either or both deaths.

Benzie County deputies became the first law enforcement agency in the state to carry to carry Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin and other opiate overdoses. But to make a serious dent, Schendel said he would need his own narcotics team assigned solely to Benzie County.

“We barely have enough deputies to patrol the roads, and the Traverse Narcotics Team, they cover several counties and their resources are taxed as well,” Schendel said.

Opiates such as prescription drugs and heroin cause most overdoses, but there also is a rise in methamphetamine use, Schendel said.

“These things didn’t occur in any of these northern counties and all of a sudden we are inundated with all of them,” Schendel said. “Unfortunately, there’s a market for it. People are willing to risk their life to chase a high.”

Heroin overdoses are on the rise nationwide, and climbed by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice reported. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this month called deaths from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers an “urgent and growing public health crisis.”

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