Macomb authorities urged to unify against drug problem

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Sterling Heights — A Macomb County judge on Tuesday called for more coordination to fight the growing problem of opioid abuse.

Judge Linda Davis of 41B District Court spoke at an event hosted by Operation Rx, a coalition of organizations looking to educate communities on how to fight prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Davis said fighting drug addiction should be a more unified effort with communities in Macomb County. Some, she said, are working on their own programs without communicating or sharing ideas with others.

“Everybody’s doing a lot of great work but we’re not working together,” Davis said during the event at Velocity Center in Sterling Heights. “We aren’t talking about it as a community.”

Davis also talked about her experience spending years trying to help her daughter recover from a heroin addiction that started when she was a teen.

Civic leaders from across Macomb County were at the event Tuesday to discuss the issue, which has become a deadly, nationwide epidemic.

Drug-related deaths in the county have been rising in recent years, according to Operation Rx. In 2014, there were nearly 250 drug-related deaths in Macomb — including heroin and prescription medication deaths.

“One of the most important things we can do is work together,” said Monique Stanton, president of CARE of Southeastern Michigan, one of several organizations working on Operation Rx. “We are here to get people help, we are here to get people connected to recovery.”

Stanton said Operation Rx is working to train doctors in ways to prescribe medications without getting patients addicted. The program also works with local schools to teach them how they can better educate students on the dangers of drug addiction.

Davis said the county needs more resources dedicated to preventing drug abuse.

For example, she said schools need to be prepared if a student reacts to an overdose. And people who get released from prison and relapse need ongoing help.

Sterling Heights Capt. Dale Dwojakowski said officers in his department, and most others in the county, are equipped with Narcan to save people who overdose on heroin. Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is a nasal-spray that can reverse the effects of certain narcotics. The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office started equipping its deputies with Narcan more than a year ago.

His presentation showed that people 25-34 are most likely to overdose on heroin, while opioid overdoses are most common with people 45-54 years old.

“We are at least saving a life to give them a chance to recover,” Dwojakowski said. “Because if we don’t use the Narcan up front, they’re dead.”

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said after Tuesday’s event that officers are out in the community talking to schools and civic groups about the dangers of drug abuse.

“This problem is so big that we just can’t arrest our way out of it,” he said. “We’re bringing this issue to the public, making them aware and giving them the options.”

Twitter: @NicquelTerry