State systems for tracking heroin deaths flawed, advocates say

NOTE — THIS IS PAIRED WITH ANOTHER STORY: Heroin problems outpace Michigan’s solutions
By CAITLIN McARTHUR
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 A lack of official communication, outdated statistics and inconsistent reporting practices have slowed Michigan’s attempts to combat the continuing heroin and opioid problem, advocates say.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.

Prescription drug abuse: The new face of addiction

By Daniel Hamburg
Mason Times staff writer

“It can happen to anyone. I’ve seen it a lot,” Aaron Emerson said. Unsuspecting teens are becoming addicted to prescription pills, and moving on to more dangerous drugs. It’s in our medicine cabinets and prescribed by doctors. Prescription drugs, such as opioids, are available for helping people overcome pain and other medical issues, yet sometimes lead people down an addictive road.

Prescription Drug Task Force working to keep Mason safe

by Henrik Blix
Mason Times staff writer

MASON—Prevention and education. Those are the methods Mason leaders are using to address prescription drug abuse. Police Chief John Stressman said the police department’s job is more about prevention than enforcement. “We’re trying to get ahead of the game,” Stressman said. “We’re proactive and aggressive about preventing problems before they get started.”

According to the police department’s annual report, drug offenses accounted for 16 of 221, just over 7 percent, of total arrests in 2012.