'Pure hell': Midland police, treatment experts strategize response to opioids

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MIDLAND (WJRT) (1/26/2018) - The opioid and heroin epidemic that grips the country is taking its toll on Mid-Michigan.

Today, people came together to make a battle plan.

"These are people with boots on the ground who are on the front line fighting this epidemic," said U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland.

What these people are fighting is constant and scary.

"What we are seeing is lives lost, seeing families that are traumatized," said Midland Police Chief Cliff Block.

Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks said simply locking up drug users isn't the answer to solving the epidemic. To help, Lori Wood started a nonproift called For a Brighter Future to help people recover from drug addiction.

"As a parent who lost a child, it was important for me to find a way to help," she said. "I know what a parent goes through and it is pure hell."

Everyone agreed educating youngsters on the dangers of drugs, legal and illegal, is necessary.

"We need to get in front of the kids and we need to get in front of them soon," said Jennifer Heronema of The Legacy House. "Opiates are something very different than anything else we have dealt with."

But once someone becomes addicted to prescription medication or a drug like heroin, treatment has to be constant -- and its expensive.

"Our community has to be oriented in such a way that we can walk alongside these folks for a long time, because they are risk for a long time," said Sam Price of Ten16 Recovery.

More space to treat addicts also is needed.

"There are not enough beds," Wood said. "I get calls from people who want to go into detox right now. They are ready today, right now, and they can't get in anywhere."

There was a call to harness in the flow of prescription drugs.

"I would like to see some legislation put more on the medical profession, pharmacists, medical doctors to make much harder to prescribe these things," said Midland County Sheriff Scott Stephenson.

Moolenaar wanted to hear the opinions, the stories, the needs, as the crisis doesn't appear to be ending soon. He will take those back to Congress.

"In our last appropriation we allocated $500 million towards fighting this," he said. "It's given out in grant to states and we are hoping to find best practices where one community can learn from another community on what's most effective."

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