Local Effects of Opioid Abuse Epidemic Addressed In 9&10 News Discussion Forum
Opioids use, abuse, overdoses and deaths were the topics of discussion at a 9&10 News forum Wednesday night in Traverse City.
It was a chance for people to ask the experts about the problem of opioids in Northern Michigan and learn how to address the epidemic of opioid abuse.
And the very real human toll they bring to local families.
“When you talk about the number of deaths—tripling in the last five years in our state—it’s a huge problem,” says Dr. Duane DiFranco of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
For those who have to balance enforcing drug laws and saving lives like police and prosecutors, that balance is difficult.
“Grand Traverse County Sheriff stats show 31 deaths in our county alone from opioid drugs,” says Grand Traverse Prosecuting Attorney Bob Cooney.
But there’s a new focus on helping addicts, according to Traverse City Police Department Chief Jeff O’Brien.
“Our officers are on the front lines,” he says. “This is not law enforcement’s lead, we can’t take the lead on this, we don’t have the expertise. But we’re in a position where we can refer people with substance use disorders to clinics instead of putting them in the criminal justice system.”
Parents who’ve lost children to opioids have told excruciatingly heartbreaking stories about what they’ve learned.
Ken Kaufman lost his son to an opioid overdose, who he said started on Rx opioids when he got his wisdom teeth taken out.
“Anybody who’s ever used a pill, don’t take it unless life and death,” Kaufman says. “The doctors, it’s a privilege, Rx opioids lead to addiction. Pharmaceuticals—they created this monster and have to be part of the solution.”
As for finding solutions—with the right resources, there can be hope.
“This is a team effort,” says Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich. “This is not cops and robbers—cops putting people in jail. This is love, this is faith, this is hope. This is having pride in yourself, in your community.”