Governor, state leaders announce plans to fight opioid crisis

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – State leaders are taking major steps to fight back against the opioid crisis.

In the past five years, more than 7,000 people have lost their lives to an opioid overdose in Michigan, with more than 2,000 in 2017 alone.

Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer updated the progress of the state’s Opioid Task Force.

The battle against this epidemic is something that touches one Jackson man very close to home.

“My son became dependent on opioids and he died at the ripe old age of 24,” said Mike Hirst. “I saw a tremendous young man that had everything going for him and have his life destroyed right in front of him.”

Mike Hirst knows all too well the pain of loving someone addicted to opioids.

“My son told me once in a conversation, he says, ‘You know dad, you called me a junkie, and I know you said that to me to try to inspire me not to be a junkie, but I want to tell you, that drove me into the ground. That was the worst thing you could possibly say to me,'” said Hirst.

Hirst’s only son Andy died in 2010 from a heroin overdose. This tragedy has motivated him to help others going through the same thing his family did.

“Everybody thinks that somebody who is an opioid addict is a bad kid from the wrong side of town with a crummy set of parents, well I’m going to tell you that’s not true at all,” said Hirst.

“Addiction is not a moral failing. Addiction is a disease,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer and other state health officials announced a goal today: to cut opioid deaths in half by 2024.

They also plan to make it easier for those with Medicaid seeking treatment, and will launch a $1 million dollar media campaign aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding opioids.

“Every one of us very likely knows someone who has suffered from some sort of an addiction and that’s why this work is so important,” said Whitmer.

Hirst says it’s steps like these that will bring forth a better future.

“We’ve got a lot of key players in Michigan that are on this project and we’re going to do something about it,” said Hirst. “We’re not in this to make money. We’re in this to make a difference.”

The state also plans to expand medication-assisted treatment in prisons and increase syringe service programs throughout Michigan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, click here.

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