Man Dead in Alley as Ferndale Police Strive to Reduce Drug Fatalities

Man Dead in Alley as Ferndale Police Strive to Reduce Drug Fatalities
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 3, 2016)

Ferndale, MI – A man died Friday night in the alley behind Om Café presumably from drug use.

Police are awaiting autopsy results from the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, but Lt. Pkak of the Ferndale Police confirmed that police were called to assist a non-responsive man in the alley behind 23136 Woodward Ave at 10:55 pm on Friday, Dec. 2.

The cause of death cannot be determined until an autopsy is performed, but officers found evidence of drug use at the scene.  Lt. Pkak could not comment as to what the evidence was, and said that more information will be available once the investigation is complete.

The man was found in the alley, not in a vehicle, Lt. Ptak said. A staff person at Om Cafe, who did not wish to be identified, said that the man was not an employee or customer.

The number of drug related deaths in Ferndale is not known, but recently eight Ferndale Police officers were recognized with lifesaving awards by Ferndale City Council for administering Narcan to revive people who were unconscious due to opiate, heroin or Fentanyl use.  The police have been using Narcan (which is the brand name of the medication Naloxone) as part of an Oakland County Mental Health Authority Program since July, and have been including help for addicts as part of their efforts to reduce drug use in the community.

The number of drug related deaths per city is not tracked by the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office due to a couple of reasons, according to OCME Administrator Thomas Hardesty.  One reason is that often in drug-related cases there are multiple substances in the person’s body, and often underlying health problems.  There are also situations where opiates are found in the body, but were not the cause of death.  And there are situations where a person was hospitalized and given opiates in the hospital before dying.

The data is not tracked by city. But county-wide in 2014 there were 61 cases of heroin, 324 cases of opiates, 78 cases of Fentanyl and 212 that were undetermined.  Of the undetermined cases, only some are likely to be drug related.  The numbers for 2015 were down county-wide with 19 for heroin, 184 for opiates, 47 for Fentanyl and 205 undetermined.

While the numbers are unknown, there are cases that oc115 has reported.  In April 2015 a man was left to die on the lawn of a home on Fielding Street after taking heroin laced with fentanyl. This death lead to a Ferndale Police and Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team investigation that uncovered a ring of dealers in the area.  The 8 Wood Motel and Motorama Motel were found to be hot spots of drug activity, and the City of Ferndale revoked licenses for both establishments.  While those cases go through the appeals process in Oakland County Circuit Court, the motels remain open.

In April 2016 a woman was found dead at the 8 Wood with evidence of heroin on the nightstand.  Another presumed heroin-related death took place in February when a man died on the roof of a duplex near signs of “illegal drug activity.”

Hardesty could not make any conclusions or speculation about the reason for the decreases in deaths between 2014 and 2015.

However, the use of Narcan/Naloxone as a way to intervene and stop overdoses, has increased.

A Nov. 18 press release from OCCMHA states “Along with its local law enforcement partners, Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority (OCCMHA) has been tracking naloxone “reversals” for more than a year. More than 70 lives have been saved locally with this celebrated antidote that is changing the landscape on the opiate epidemic.”

Over half of the police departments in Oakland County, including Ferndale, participate in OCCMHA’s Law Enforcement Responds with Naloxone (LERN) Program, which has provided over 450 officers with Naloxone.

He said those using heroin range in age and demographics, saying users are “across the board, but many have experienced a physical ailment at some point that has caused them pain.”

When asked what Ferndale Police are doing to reduce the effects of heroin in the community, Sgt. Baron Brown said “Our narcotics investigators have focused on choking off the supply at the mid-level distributors’ level.  In addition to that, we have vigorously investigated several cases with a Ferndale nexus involving delivery of narcotics leading to death.  We are also trying to expand access to treatment by distributing information on facilities associated with Oakland County Mental Health.”

The Ferndale Police Station is also a drop-off point for un-needed medications.  This helps keep pills from falling into the wrong hands.

“There is help out there and Oakland County Mental Health can usually find someone a bed if they are ready for treatment.  Just ask any officer for a card with treatment information.  All Ferndale officers have them.  Also, if you believe someone is in the midst of an opioid overdose call 911.  Literally, every second counts.  Every Ferndale officer on the street has access to and has been trained to administer Narcan,” he said.

When someone is revived with Narcan, they are advised to go to the emergency room.  “After an officer administers a dose of Narcan, transport to the hospital is strongly encouraged.  A dose of Narcan only reverses the fatal effects of opioid intoxication for a short time but a high enough dose of an opioid can be reversed by Narcan and then return to lethal levels over time.  Overdose patients must be monitored by medical personnel,” Sgt. Brown said.

“An overdose victim is not typically charged with anything unless they are in possession of heroin or commit some other type of crime.  Michigan has a pending 911 Good Samaritan law that shields the person that calls 911 from legal liability if they come into contact with law enforcement in an effort to procure medical attention for an overdose victim.”

This story will be updated if more information becomes available.

 

For a documentary about heroin in Oakland County see http://oaklandcounty115.com/2016/02/06/waterford-based-group-makes-heroin-documentary-video/

For a 2014 interview with Sheriff Mike Bouchard about heroin see http://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/08/24/sheriff-bouchard-addresses-heroin-deaths-video/.

For resources related to drug treatment, see www.occmha.org.

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