Column: Poverty leads to opioids, gangs

William Broman

The opioid epidemic is making headlines nationally. Michigan can make a difference nationwide by reducing poverty in Detroit and rebuilding its neighborhoods. President Trump promised to take on the epidemic; Michigan Republicans can help the president by placing extra focus on improving the city’s neighborhoods.

Detroit’s gangs and drug dealers perpetuate the opioid epidemic at home and across the country, specifically in one of the hardest hit areas: West Virginia. For a decade or more gangs from an area of Detroit known as “The Red Zone” have peddled their wares across state lines to Huntington and Charleston, West Virginia.

Huntington is home to Marshall University’s medical school at Cabell-Huntington Hospital. Cabell-Huntington has one of the highest rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome in the country. Put simply, a higher percentage of babies are born with a drug addiction in Huntington than anywhere else in the country. The drugs end up in West Virginia by the hands of Detroit gang members.

There are many reasons a young man or woman gets caught up with a gang, but most reasons can be traced back to a scarcity of resources, poverty. While running for state rep in 2016, I knocked on nearly every door in “The Red Zone.” I encourage any Republican running for statewide office, or making a decision on funding for the city of Detroit, to walk these streets.

Most people avoid the area because once you’ve knocked on the doors, talked to the people, and witnessed the way of life, you can’t ignore it. If you never walk near the intersection of Mapleridge and Chalmers, or walk into the market at Troester and Hayes, you can act like these problems never exist.

Imagine facing the choice of going hungry or selling a bag of dope to an addict for money to buy food. We can’t expect neighbors to think about their future when their total focus is on their next meal, or trying to keep a house warm for their family. We must do more to help lift our fellow Michiganians out of poverty.

If we really want to see the opioid epidemic decrease, we need to not only focus on helping those battling the disease of addiction, but reduce the number of sources for these drugs. The best way to stop drug dealers and gang members is to lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty, and rebuild the neighborhoods in Detroit.

William Broman is vice chairman of the Wayne County 14th Congressional District Republican Committee.