Town hall sends powerful message from opioid crisis front line

Image 1 of 4

A growing number of metro Detroiters are getting caught up in drug abuse with opioid or heroin. A town hall in Warren was held Wednesday night to educate on the crisis and offer treatment.

Opioids are killers. In 2016 roughly 64,000 people died in the U.S. from an overdose. That breaks down to 175 per day. One of those deaths per day is in Macomb County alone. And it’s getting worse. 

"2017 will be a record year and that's obviously a bad thing," said Dr. Daniel Spitz, Macomb County chief medical examiner.

Last year alone, opioids killed people from 16 to 92 years old. And with that in mind, schools in metro Detroit and beyond are taking a proactive approach. 

"We have to train staff to know the warning signs in children from very young all the way up through high school and they go to ongoing training whether with the county or the Michigan Department of Education," said Piper Bognar, superintendent of Van Dyke Schools.

In fact, heroin education will soon be part of the everyday curriculum in all schools in Michigan, meaning students as young as middle school aged will be required to learn about the drug. And kids say it should continue at home. 

"If you tell them at a young age that drugs aren't good and this is the consequences behind it," said Kendall Rogers, Van Dyke High School senior. "If you tell them the truth, they don't have a choice but to listen."

Part of that education process took place for 130 people Wednesday night in the auditorium of Van Dyke High School. 

FOX 2's Amy Lange led a panel of experts who weighed in local problems with the drug and what can be done about it.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, pot used to be the most profitable drug for the cartels in Mexico. But the ease of which people can get their hands on it left a hole in the market, which was filled by heroin. 

"Instead of having to import heroin from Burma or Thailand, they grow opium poppies in Mexico," said Daniel Lemisch, 1st Assistant US Attorney. "They refine that into heroin in Mexico. It is much easier to transport that less, very powerful inexpensive heroin from Mexico than transporting halfway around the world."

There is hope. More than 870 people have been placed into recovery through Hope Not Handcuffs, a program that allows a user to walk into police stations and ask for help.

If you'd like more information on Hope Not Handcuffs, click here