Addiction facilities struggle to keep up with opioid epidemic

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The opioid epidemic is spiraling out of control. In fact, it's become such a problem we don't have enough caretakers to help save drug users from death. The issue has hit Downriver especially hard, and the call is out to get people trained as therapists.  

"I know I'm going to make it, nothing is going to stop me," said Emily Wray. She grew up in a well to do family with hard-working parents -- not the typical home you think of when you envision a heroin user. Emily will have you know it can happen to anybody. For her, it started with a bone disorder in her lower back. 

"After being in pain I didn't know what to take," she said. "Tylenol, Motrin, nothing helped so I didn't know what to do."

So she turned to her boyfriend at the time, who said he was giving her a powdered form of pain killer. It wasn't, it was heroin. From there - a downward spiral. 

"I have been in abandoned houses, I have been hungry, I have been down to 88 pounds," Wray said.

Now she is turning the corner. August 7 will mark a year since she has been clean. Places like Community Care Services in Lincoln Park are here for people like her. Heroin isn't just heroin anymore.

Lincoln Park has seen 100 deaths in a year because of overdoses, more than any other city in Michigan. The biggest issue now is synthetic heroin.

"Twenty years ago when people were taking heroin or back in the '60s, that was pure heroine," said Susan Kozak, of Community Care Services. "The heroin that is out there today is mixed with a lot of other stuff."

FOX 2: "It's stuff that's causing death?"

"Yes, because it is so potent," she said. "It is 100 times more powerful than what heroin would be alone." 

The issue here is there aren't enough caretakers to deal with the intake. Downriver has been hit especially hard. In Michigan, health officials say more people are dying from drug overdoses than there are doctors and therapists to treat them.  

"We have to ramp it up," Kozak said. "We are adding clinicians and therapists which are very difficult to find right now. It's hard to find people who are trained in addiction."

"I'm blessed because everything is slowly rebuilding and I'm really proud of myself," Wray said.

As encouraging as it is to see Emily turn her life around, sadly a countless number of others need the help. 

"It's very difficult in community mental health to hire people because the pay isn't the same as it is in private practice or working at a hospital or a school system," Kozak said.

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