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Drug overdose deaths up almost 60 percent in La Porte County

WSBT 22

La Porte County drug overdose deaths are up almost 60 percent this year, and police are asking for your help to lower that number.

The number of suspected overdose calls that did not end in death are up, too. The number of suspected overdoses as of December 4 was 146.

Local officials say it'll take a community effort to start seeing the numbers go the other way.

As the holidays approach in La Porte County, 24 families will be spending their first Christmas without a loved one. So far this year, 24 people have died of a drug overdose.

"Even one is too many, and 24 is entirely too many,” said Capt. Michael Kellems, La Porte County Sheriff's Office. “Those are numbers that we've never seen here in my history on the department and that's absolutely disturbing."

Kellems has been with the sheriff's office for more than 30 years. As police attack the opioid epidemic, he says drug dealers are switching to things like cocaine and meth. Things that haven't been an issue for years.

"When we start to get a stranglehold on one particular element or type of narcotic, another one pops up. It's a never-ending process," said Kellems.

Also impacted are the first responders.

"We're seeing this issue widespread. All different age groups and demographics," said Andrew McGuire, La Porte County EMS director.

McGuire says overdose calls can be dangerous for his employees, and those calls have increased almost 75 percent from last year.

"You're dealing with these calls back 8, 10 years ago very infrequently. Now you’re dealing with them almost on a daily basis,” said McGuire.

La Porte County EMS has spent more than $8,000 on Narcan so far this year. The director says if numbers continue to increase, the department will need a bigger budget.

But La Porte County police hope it doesn't reach that point.

"It's difficult to keep up with, but at the same time we're not going to let go,” said Kellems. “We're not going to quit. We're going to double down on our efforts."

In addition to increasing enforcement, the police are also asking for community involvement. Right now, Cannon's Automotive Service and Condon and Christ Automotive are running a gift card special. All proceeds go towards combating the drug epidemic.

For more information, click here.

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