Heroin epidemic strains police, hospital in Jackson


JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — We’ve seen heroin addiction hurt communities across mid-Michigan.

But the city of Jackson has been hit hard by the drug, and is seeing multiple overdoses every day.

6 News talked to officials from the police department and hospital.

Both say that the heroin epidemic is a strain on their resources.

And they hope to work together to battle this growing problem.

It’s becoming so bad that police in Jackson respond to a heroin overdose nearly every day.

In fact, according to recent police reports, officers have responded to eight overdoses in just the last week.

“I hope we’re at the peak of the problem, because it’s scary,” said Deputy Chief Elmer Hitt of the Jackson Police Department.

When someone calls 911 and reports an overdose, police respond to the scene along with EMS.

“We try to get any information that may be helpful to us in determining who may be supplying the heroin,” Hitt said.

But officers usually don’t get much cooperation, and it takes them away from other duties.

“It’s a strain on our resources here, it’s a strain on our detectives,” Hitt said.

In Jackson, anyone who overdoses is taken to Allegiance Health where they are treated, and usually released after a few hours.

And for many, the addiction cycle starts all over again.

“Most of them don’t want help. They’re embarrassed and they don’t want to acknowledge that they have a problem, said Dr. Rami Khoury, Emergency Room Director at Henry Ford Allegiance Health.

Dr. Khoury says the hospital staff offers recovery services, but they can’t force drug users to get clean.

“Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we averaged five to six overdoses a day,” Khoury said. “It is a strain because you’re not just dealing with a medical emergency. You’re dealing with someone who needs more reassessment, more social issues, it takes more time.”

So far in 2016, Jackson police have responded to 150 heroin overdoses.

When you include all of Jackson County, that number is well over 200 overdoses.

The hospital reports 40 heroin-related deaths in 2016.

Last week, local law enforcement and the medical community met to discuss ways they can join forces to fight heroin.

They’re hoping to get help from new legislation that will go into effect in 2017.

The new law says that people seeking medical attention for a heroin overdose will not be prosecuted.

Dr. Khoury says breaking the stigma of shame when getting help can make a big difference.

“We have to change how we do things so the next generation does not fall into this problem. And then we have to deal with the problem created and how to fix it. And that second piece seems to be more complicated,” Dr. Khoury said.

Police say help is available, but people sometimes have trouble connecting with those services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction. Here are links to resources:

In Jackson: http://homeofnewvision.org/

In Lansing: http://www.midmichiganrecoveryservices.org/


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