Opioid deaths at an epidemic, town hall to be held Wednesday

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One year ago FOX 2 showed viewers an online video of two people passed out, a syringe still in a woman's leg overdosing in their car after a crash at Chalmers and Seven Mile.

And in that time since, the opioid and heroin epidemic here has only gotten worse. A community town hall will be held at the Wayne State Law School Wednesday night on the heroin and opioid crisis.

"For 2016 I believe we've had 817 deaths just due to the opiate issue alone, not any different drug," said Darlene Owens. "So it's bad and we have to address it."

Owens is the director of substance abuse disorders at Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

"We want to get a handle on this, we want to decrease it," she said. "We've already saved 49 lives using our Naloxone kits."

The agency has a host of treatment, prevention and education programs - from helping addicted mothers to training in the use of Narcan and now they're teaming up with police, prosecutors, the FBI and the DEA for a comprehensive approach to this problem.

"It's truly an epidemic," said Rich Isaacson, DEA agent. "If you look at the national numbers there are about 150 people a day die from overdosing on drugs in this country and the majority of those deaths are from opioid related drugs."

It's something Dwight Vaughter, CEO of Shar house knows all too well. He's been clean 33 years this week - but the men and women at his treatment center are struggling.

"I could probably name about 14 people in the last calendar year that have passed because of overdoses and every one that we investigate is always related to opioid use," he said.

"This is an epidemic that has hit all houses, all walks of life, we want to educate them," Owens said. "We want to let them know about the resources we have in the Detroit Wayne County area.

"Our access number is 1-800-241-4949 - we're available 24 hours."

The town hall will be held at the WSU Law School auditorium, 471 West Palmer, Detroit, on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. everyone is invited and the information is invaluable.