Police discuss drug addiction in Midland County



As the COVID-19 pandemic grows for two years in the United States, it still rages across the state and country. But this pandemic exacerbates a different epidemic that has long plagued the country.

Current 2020 data from the state of Michigan shows 2,684 people died of overdoses last year. (According to its dashboard, state data is still considered provisional and may “increase slightly” as more data is finalized.)

In Midland County, substance use disorders have been impacted by the pandemic, but the type of impact depends on who is speaking. The Midland Sheriff’s Office has reported an increase in drug overdoses over the past year, while the City of Midland Police Department has recorded fewer overdoses during that time.

In 2019, Midland County Sheriff Myron Greene said the department responded to 29 overdoses, which rose to 35 in 2020. In 2021, that year has already replaced the previous year with 37 overdoses.


“Drugs (have) always been in the community and I think unemployment (and) people locked in and not doing as much in the community, that may have affected it,” Greene said. “But if there was a hard, quick (and) easy answer, I don’t know.”

The Midland Police Department sees a different trend, however. The number of overdoses has increased from 36 in 2019 to 33 in 2020 and to 20 so far in 2021, said Brennon Warren, MPD’s community relations manager. He has not had any indication as to why these numbers have declined.

However, Warren said the department has seen more drunk drivers in the past year. Last year there were 101 cases, but now the city is at 111 so far this year.

The most commonly used substances in Midland County are heroin and methamphetamine, Greene said. This is because of the addictive properties of the drugs and the cheaper prices. Greene only has guesses as to why these numbers may have increased.

Fight a tough battle

Co-founder of the nonprofit For A Brighter Tomorrow, Lori Wood said tackling the epidemic has been an uphill battle over the years.

“Substance use disorders are on the rise,” said Wood, adding that many Michigan residents have died of overdoses this year. “A handful of (the deaths) are from our own community. Between the rising bills and the rising deaths, we need more support. COVID has (caused) harm in so many different ways. “

In terms of substances, Wood said heroin and alcohol were prevalent in previous years. Now Wood agrees with Greene, meth is locally important. She added that cocaine use was on the rise, in addition to a continued presence of heroin in Midland.

The nonprofit, located at 1509 Washington St. (Suite E) in Midland, serves residents of Midland County with substance use disorders. For A Brighter Tomorrow’s main services are matching clients’ costs for counseling and drug testing – according to Wood, testing is always court-ordered and counseling is usually court-ordered.

“Nobody is covering drug testing, nobody,” Wood said.

That’s part of the reason Wood co-founded this non-profit organization. On average, a screening test costs $ 30. The customer pays $ 15 and For A Brighter Tomorrow covers the other half.

“Every customer is different,” she continued. “Some test once a month and some test twice a week. It’s an additional cost to them – in my mind it’s inaccessible, so that’s our main function. “

Being a resident of Midland County with a Substance Use Disorder is the only eligibility requirement to receive For A Brighter Tomorrow services.

However, state funded agencies are required to meet defined criteria.

Ten16 of Midland is a state-funded organization that participates with Medicaid and Healthy Michigan, said Sam Price, president and CEO of Ten16. They provide services to people with addiction, such as recovery housing, walk-in services, outpatient counseling and recovery coaching.

The organization also has a staff member in the Emergency Department at MidMichigan Health to help those struggling with substance abuse connect with support and treatment. The services these people receive and the insurance they will cover depend on the stage of their substance use disorder, Price said.

In 2020, Ten16 saw a decrease in the number of people coming to the emergency department for drug treatment, from the organization’s annual average of 450 to 356. In 2021, that number continued to decline, Price predicting that the number will reach only 311. patients by the end of the year.

The organization’s recovery center, located at 113 North Saginaw Road, serves around 300 people over the course of a year, Price said. But that number is now down about 30%. The organization’s residential program on the M-20 is only operating at 50 percent of capacity, he said.

The number of people with ‘problematic’ drug use has increased in the past year

However, that doesn’t mean there were fewer people struggling with drug addiction last year. Price said the number of people with “problematic” drug use increased last year, with stressors from the pandemic sending some back to drug addiction.

“Some of the people we were seeing may have had much longer periods of sobriety under their belt,” Price said. “Then the pandemic happened, and they lost their jobs, their support system, and stressors came in and ended up relapsing because of it. “

In 2020, Brighter Tomorrow had its smallest number of customers. Traditionally, Wood says he has around 100 clients who have 24/7 access to the group’s team.

“Everything has slowed down,” Wood said of the initial response to the pandemic. “With the courts and all the state services, they just shut down.”

From an operational standpoint, Wood said the group was able to maintain funding without matching the client’s costs to tackle the disease at a time when health precautions limited access to fundraising opportunities.

She said it was helpful for the nonprofit, but the small number of clients doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a community in need.

“We are doing this to save lives”

“You can die from it,” Wood said of substance use disorders. “And there’s a good chance you will. We do this to save lives.

“I have to let people know that we are going to help you, we are going to help you get through this,” she said. “We will be by your side because it is what we needed and it was not there for us.”

Wood lost his daughter, Ashley, in 2012 to an overdose.

Inspired by a persistent cardinal who came to visit Wood’s house shortly after police informed her of the loss, she created the For A Brighter Tomorrow logo to represent the red bird flying with a bright sun in background.

“I think that’s my message from Ashley saying that she’s free and that she’s happy,” Wood said. “Then the cardinal stopped flying in my yard for the rest of the day. I wanted the cardinal in flight and I wanted the sun behind him for sunnier days.

As Midland County largely enters a seemingly traditional period with the return of various events, she said people could access more “normal” ways of receiving support.

This year, Wood said the number of clients has already increased. But at the same time, Wood said billing for the services had increased from $ 600 to $ 800 in the past three to four months.

Going forward, Price said he hopes to serve more people in the years to come. It’s not because he hopes more people struggle with drug addiction, but because he hopes more people who need help treating it will come and get it. He said only 10% of people nationwide struggling with drug addiction get the treatment they need at places like Ten16, Price said.

Where can I get naloxone in Midland County?

The Midland County Public Health Department has partnered with local organizations, including the Legacy Center for Community Success, to prevent deaths from opioid overdose.

One of the ways the ministry works to prevent deaths is by providing life-saving medicine.

The Midland County Public Health Department has naloxone for county residents in need. According to the Michigan State Overdose Data to Action Dashboard, naloxone is a life-saving drug that can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is commonly known by two brand names, Narcan and Evzio. https://co.midland.mi.us/HealthDepartment/Narcan.aspx

Prior to the pandemic, residents of Midland County could obtain Narcan nasal spray from the Midland County Public Health Department, located at 220 W. Ellsworth St. in Midland.

Due to the pandemic, the health department is now delivering naloxone to residents in the parking lot.

Residents of Midland County should call the Department of Health at (989-832-6665) to make an appointment for a delivery to the parking lot.

The department asks people to call ahead and make arrangements before they get to their office.

The public health service is open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. The office closes from noon to 1 p.m. every day.

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