Dearborn, MICH (WXYZ) - The fight against opioid addiction and death continues in southeast Michigan as the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority declares it an epidemic that has exploded.
First responders across the state are now arming themselves with the lifesaving drug Naloxone to reverse opioid overdose.
The Dearborn Police Department is now joining dozens of other agencies like Detroit Police and Michigan State Police, training their entire department to use Naloxone.
187 officers are now each armed with an opioid overdose kit, containing a nasal spray of Naloxone.
"Opioid abuse in America is essentially up 800% over the last two years,” said Dr. Vito Rocco, ER Chief at Beaumont Hospital of Dearborn.
In Michigan the rate of dying from an opioid overdose, like heroin, is more than double that of a car crash, according to DWMHA.
The organization says overdose deaths jumped from 245 in 1999 to 1,745 in 2016.
"When I came on the job we very rarely saw heroin and then the pill boom happened, then we saw an increase in heroin after people were initially addicted to pills," said Dearborn Police Sgt. Vince Belloli.
Six months after they were trained Dearborn Police have already saved five lives with the kits, including one just two weeks ago, a man found unresponsive in a hotel parking lot.
"We couldn't wake him up and neither could a couple of passersby that initially saw him and called us." Sgt. Belloli got to the man before the fire department, using that opioid overdose kit, pumping two doses of Naloxone through his nose.
"I'd only received that kit maybe a couple of weeks before this incident."
That man was given more Naloxone from the fire department, was taken to the hospital, where he survived and was released just six hours later.
Agencies like Dearborn now have the revival drug in police cars, fire trucks and ambulances.
"Sometimes it's too late by the time you get to the hospital, and this is something that truly does need to be done by the first responders," said Dr. Rocco.
Dearborn Police were trained to use opioid overdose kits through the DWMHA, which gave the kits to the police department for free.
The DWMHA is partnering with local law enforcement to create a holistic approach to drug addiction, treating substance abuse as a mental health issue.