2017-11-30 / Front Page

Third OD, this one is fatal

Tribal leaders address opioids
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

A heroin overdose death in Suttons Bay last week, coupled with two near-fatal overdoses earlier this month, has brought the opioid epidemic to Leelanau County’s doorstep.

All thee men are members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which is taking a leading role in addressing opioid addiction.

Kevin D. Yannett, 31, died Nov. 22 at a Suttons Bay Village home as a result of a heroin overdose. Two other men, ages 26 and 30, were found unresponsive Nov. 18 at a Peshawbestown home.

The two Peshawbestown men were saved after being treated with naloxone nasal spray, an opioid antidote that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Yannett was also given naloxone, but the antidote was unsuccessful.

Yannett’s death is part of an ongoing opioid crisis within the tribal community and across the country, said Arlene Kashata, manager of the tribe’s Human Services Department and Behavioral Health Program.

“When we lose even one person it’s a crisis for our community,” Kashata said. “Losing even one member is too many. We need to really be there so we don’t lose any more members.”

Kashata said the tribe has been proactive in dealing with the opioid crisis. Two grants were recently received that will be used to help pay for treatment for those members who may be abusing opioids, as well as for education and outreach training for staff and community members, Kashata said.

“The education is being done so that our community can gain an understanding of what it is, what to look for and where to find help,” Kashata said.

Workshops are being held over the next couple of months and will include training on the use of naloxone and making it available to all community members and staff, she said.

The Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office will assist the GTB in that naloxone training. Sheriff’s Office deputies have had Narcan Nasal Spray — the brand name for naloxone — available in patrol cars since October 2016, when Up North Prevention, an organization developed under the umbrella of Catholic Human Services, donated 48 doses to the department.

The two men who overdosed on Nov. 18 were the first in the county to be saved by the nasal spray.

The GTB recently applied for another grant it hopes to use to develop a strategic plan for addressing the opioid crisis.

Kashata said she’s not sure there has been an increase in substance abuse within the tribe in recent years, but she has seen a change in what people are using.

“Years ago it was alcohol. Now we’re seeing more marijuana and opiate usage than previously,” Kashata said. “It’s very scary and we take it very seriously.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, which include both prescription drugs and heroin, has quadrupled since 1999.

From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, according to the CDC, with 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose.

For those tribal members who may be struggling with substance abuse, the Behavioral Health program includes a licensed outpatient facility with five counselors on staff and a psychiatrist who is available once a week.

The program also provides referrals and funding, if needed, for those members who need residential treatment that is provided off site.

The opioid crisis was also on the agenda of Wednesday’s Tribal Council meeting, according to Doris Winslow, executive assistant to the tribal manager.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said the heroin used by all three men was likely laced with Fentanyl or carfentanil, synthetic opioid analgesics that are similar to morphine, but much more powerful.

He said he won’t know for sure until he gets the report from a toxicology screen that was done on Yannott.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and carfentanil is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

While legal drugs, Fentanyl and carfentanil are being produced in illegal laboratories. They have been partially blamed for the national epidemic of drug overdoses, according to the NIDA.

Borkovich is worried that the fatal batch of heroin is still around and that there may be more overdoses.

“First of all it’s very disheartening to see how heroin is being used so much in this county,” Borkovich said. “I wish people would step back from this drug issue and ween themselves off from this substance abuse, because it’s just getting worse and worse.”

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