Sunday, September 26, 2021

3 deaths linked to possible overdose in East Lansing over the past 2 months

June 28, 2021
The East Lansing Police Department is located on the corner of Linden Street and Park Lane. Shot on September 10, 2020.
The East Lansing Police Department is located on the corner of Linden Street and Park Lane. Shot on September 10, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Since April 30, three people in their early twenties have died in East Lansing due to suspected overdoses. According to the Ingham County medical examiner’s office, a 22-year-old male died due to a fentanyl overdose on April 30. The office said a 20-year-old female and 22-year-old male died of suspected overdoses June 5. 

The official cause of death for the deaths on June 5 has not been ruled yet because the medical examiner’s office is still conducting an autopsy and toxicology report, according to Lt. Scot Sexton of the East Lansing police department. He did, however, say that the evidence on the scene has led investigators to believe that it was an overdose. 

“We have not gotten back any kind of autopsy or toxicology reports that would confirm an overdose,” said Sexton. “The preliminary investigation— based on what we saw inside the apartment, the evidence that we gathered, the statements we got at the time— leads us to believe that our initial investigation is leaning toward that, but nothing like that has been confirmed.”

According to the medical examiner’s office, these have been the "only deaths concerning an overdose" in East Lansing in June. Sexton also added that they will not be able to determine if the deaths on June 5 were related to the death on April 30 until a full toxicology report is complete.

The 22-year-old male who passed away on April 30 was a 2020 MSU and Sigma Nu alumnus and the 22-year-old male who passed away on June 5 was a member of Alpha Sigma Phi. 

Director of Patient Services at Advanced Rapid Detox in Detroit and a parent of a student in Greek life at MSU, Laura Lynn Solomon said that she thinks it is important for parents to have hard conversations with their children about drug use in college.

“From the point of view of stigma, people are very alarmed by students doing coke or heroin, but they're not alarmed hearing their young adult takes Adderall to study for a test,” Solomon said. “That doesn't seem to be a blip in the radar. And it is something these kids do all the time and they do it just liberally.”

The president of the MSU Interfraternity Council, or IFC, William Bulkowski said in a statement to the State News that they are deeply saddened by the losses and the Fraternity and Sorority Life, or FSL, at MSU is committed to drug and alcohol abuse training for all members of Greek life.

“I think this is an appropriate time to remind people to be vigilant and watch out for your friends, peers, and loved ones as this can happen to anyone at any time,” Bulkowski said in the statement. “We encourage our FSL members and MSU community to utilize the support staff and resources on campus and in the East Lansing/Lansing community.”

Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez said in an email to the State News that the ELPD social worker is involved in the investigation to provide support for anyone experiencing a substance abuse issue.

“I want to point out that in addition to the investigation of the circumstances involving these deaths our Police Social Worker and officers are working with groups to provide them support and means to intervene or aid someone experiencing a substance abuse issue,” Gonzalez said via email. “Anyone seeking assistance for a substance abuse concern can reach out to our Police Social Worker who can connect individuals with resources to help.”

Dan Olsen, the deputy spokesperson for MSU, said that the university is aware of these deaths and is having ongoing discussions on how to further support the mental and physical needs of students returning to campus in the fall and online. 

“This past year has been really difficult for many, especially in a remote setting,” Olsen said. “As we get back to more in-person opportunities, again, this is going to be a continued focus for the university (in) providing resources to our students to make sure that they're supported mentally, educationally and physically as well. It's important that our students have those supports.”

Michigan State and the greater Lansing area have an extensive list of resources for anyone, student or not, who may be struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. 

The Alcohol & Other Drugs, or AOD, program through the Olin Health Center on campus focuses on educating students to make informed decisions with alcohol and drugs as a student to curb the negative impact associated with substance abuse.

The Collegiate Recovery Community program through the Olin Health Center assists students in their recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. The program includes counseling, a recovery house, and a 24/7 student lounge for around-the-clock support.

If you are looking for resources outside of the University, you can call the national substance abuse hotline, 1-800-662-4357, or reach out to one of the many drug rehabilitation centers in Lansing such as Mid-Michigan Recovery Services.

If you have any information about the deaths that occurred on June 5, please contact the East Lansing police department at (517) 351-4220. 

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