State systems for tracking heroin deaths flawed, advocates say

NOTE — THIS IS PAIRED WITH ANOTHER STORY: Heroin problems outpace Michigan’s solutions
Capital News Service
LANSING — Those in the fight against heroin and opioids say one of their biggest problems is the absence of up-to-the-minute information on drug cases. A lack of official communication, outdated statistics and inconsistent reporting practices have slowed Michigan’s attempts to combat the continuing heroin and opioid problem, advocates say. They call for better reporting and recordkeeping of heroin deaths, along with legislation to increase the availability of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. Jennifer Smith, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said addressing the state’s heroin and prescription drug abuse problem is a priority — and this includes looking at the problems with current reporting systems.
It is difficult to get an accurate read on the scope of the problem due to inconsistencies in the way drug-related overdoses and fatalities are reported in the state. “A perfect example is the year that our organization started (in 2007), it was reported that there were no overdose deaths in Macomb County,” said Linda Davis, a district judge in Clinton Township and president of Families Against Narcotics.