Report: Drug deaths climbed after COVID-19 arrived in Greater Lansing

Ingham County tracks 35% increase in overdoses over same time last yea

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 — Regional health officials are tracking a recent spike in local drug overdose deaths from the three months following the arrival of COVID-19 in Greater Lansing.

A report released this week by Sparrow Health System’s Department of Forensic Pathology showed that at least 42 people died in Ingham County from drug overdoses between April 1 and June 30 — contributing to the largest quarterly increase since at least 2017, officials said today.

That’s up from 31 over the same time period last year and adds to another 32 tracked last quarter. Most — at least 33 — involved fentanyl, which continues to contribute to the vast majority of other regional deaths, including three of the five tracked this quarter in Eaton County.

Whether the regional increase is correlated to the coronavirus pandemic or the effects of social isolation is uncertain, explained department supervisor Michelle Fox. Officials don’t have enough data to predict post-pandemic outcomes. Fox simply finds the increase “noteworthy.”

The latest report tracks an overall increase of drug-related deaths of about 30% across Ingham, Eaton, Ionia, Isabella and Shiawassee counties, with the bulk reported within Ingham County. Overall, opioid-related deaths are up about 44%. Fentanyl-related deaths are up about 61%.

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