On opioid addiction epidemic: “This is a very complex problem”


JACKSON COUNTY, MI (WLNS) – In order to improve a community’s future, you sometimes have to look at its past.

In 2016, Jackson County saw a troubling trend when it comes to heroin addiction. It’s a trend that continues to get worse.

The community is looking for ways to combat the problem and keep the conversation going Congressman Tim Walberg spent the day in Jackson County on Monday where he met with law enforcement toured the county jail and got some insight into the drug epidemic from the recovery resource center in the county.

The city of Jackson has seen it’s fair share of addiction starting with prescription drugs, to heroin.

Last year in just a six day span, Jackson Police responded to eight separate heroin overdoses.

But it’s not just exclusive to Jackson; this issue is affecting the entire country the saying goes it takes a village and in this case, help is needed from all stakeholders in the community from lawmakers to law enforcement.

“This is something that transcends religious, racial, gender, political, community societal boundaries,” Rep. Tim Walberg, R-7th District said.

Congressman Tim Walberg is no stranger to the fight against opioid abuse, especially in Jackson County and today he and Mike Hirst who is the founder of a non-profit organization Andy’s Angel’s got a face to face look at the growing epidemic to expand their efforts in combating it.

Hirst lost his son to a heroin overdose in 2010. Andy’s Angels was formed in his sons memory. It works to educate the community about opioid and heroin abuse.

“This is a very complex problem,” Hirst said. “Nobody has the answer to it so we gotta come at it from every single angle we can think of his is not a political issue, this is not a race issue, this is a human issue.”

Much of their day was spent touring the county talking to inmates in the jail and spending time with police.

The conversation continued at Home of New Vision, a recovery resource center.

“More is being done. I think that more can be done,” Shannon Jackson said. She’s the Jackson Program Manager at Home of New Vision.

I would say the biggest challenge in our community is resources for treatment as well as long term treatment,” Jackson said.

Last year the center referred just under 500 people for treatment. Of those people, more than 150 of them reported opiates as their drug of choice.

As of March 3, 2017 the center has referred just under 90 people for treatment with more than 30 reporting opiates for drug of choice.

“Law enforcement is trying to shoulder their share of the burden here but this is not a problem we’ll be able to arrest our way out of it,” Jackson County Sheriff Steve Rand said. “This is going to take a multi-faceted approach it’s going to take the people like here at the recovery center, it’s going to take people like Mike Hirst, people like Congressman Walberg.”

Sheriff Rand said it’s important for people to remember that most times, addiction doesn’t just start with someone going right out on the street first thing and take heroin.

“This often started with an oxycodone or a hydrocodone,” he said. “I think everybody has an opportunity here to do something about the issue and again it’s not a law enforcement problem. It’s a community problem we all need work together to fix.”

There are a number of local resources available for those who are looking to get help. If you or someone you know is in need, check out the Seen on 6 section of our website.

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