A Florida man is speaking out about the "damage and carnage" of the opioid crisis after his daughter and her husband died of overdoses, leaving three young children behind.
Mike Belisle, 58, and his wife Lynne, 56, recently adopted Mike's grandchildren, who are 5, 2 and 1.
"I’m going to be 75 when the youngest one is 18," Mike told the Orlando Sentinel. "We're going to spend the rest of our lives raising kids because of drugs."
"Me and Lynne, in a perfect world, we'd love to just be grandparents," he added. "But we’re not the only ones out there having to do this. This is an epidemic."
In December 2016, Mike's 30-year-old daughter, Heather, and her 32-year-old husband, Daniel, were found dead in their car on the side of the road. Their car was still running and their three children were sitting in the back seat.
The autopsy concluded that the couple had died of a fentanyl overdose.
"This is a poster case for what’s going on in America today," Volusia County sheriff Michael Chitwood told the Orlando Sentinel. " [Heather and Daniel] were not criminals…. They weren't street urchins out there doing robberies and burglaries. They were people who had a disease and the disease killed them."
Mike said his and his wife's situation demonstrates the far-reaching consequences of the epidemic.
"People like Daniel and Heather … people like them need to be made aware of the damage and carnage left behind when they make foolish choices," Mike said. "They are not in this all by themselves."
Heather and Daniel were taking their children on a road trip when they overdosed. They were planning to see Daniel's mother before paying a visit to Heather's family.
Police believe the couple purchased the drug during the trip and, thinking it was heroin, snorted it. The Orlando Sentinel reports that fentanyl can be lethal at 3 or 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Heather's blood had 23 nanograms per milliliter at the time of her death. Daniel had 40.
"Somebody killed them," Mike said. "You might as well have put a gun to their heads."
Police have indicated that if the person who sold the drugs to Heather and Daniel is identified, he or she will be charged with murder. But all of their leads so far have been dead ends.
Known as "China white" or "China girl" on the street, fentanyl is an extremely potent painkiller that is oftentimes prescribed to cancer patients and other people dealing with severe pain. The drug is so dangerous that authorities wear hazmat suits while confiscating it.
"Just micrograms can make a difference between life and death. It's that serious," DEA special agent John Martin told CNN. "All you have to do is touch it. It can be absorbed through the skin and the eyes."
He said the problem is endemic across the U.S.
"Everywhere from the Northeast corridor, down to New York, the Midwest and now we're seeing it here out on the West Coast," Martin explained. "Fentanyl is everywhere right now."
The Orlando Sentinel reports that in Florida, about 6.8 people per 100,000 died of fentanyl overdoses in 2016. That's up nearly 100 percent from the previous year.
"It’s not going away anytime soon," Vickie Koenig of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.