Opioid addiction remains a widespread problem in western Michigan, and law enforcement and health officials want the public to know that treatment options are available for those who need them.
Medical treatment programs are offered by West Michigan Community Mental Health (CMH) and its partners. The CMH team hopes to inform and educate the public about these options.
The use of heroin and opioid-based pain relievers – in addition to other drugs like methamphetamine – is increasing locally, and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole says this is negatively impacting health. mental health, leading to an increase in drug-related arrests and incarcerations.
The sheriff’s office works regularly with the CMH on cases related to mental health. Cole said that substance use contributes to and exacerbates mental health problems.
“From a prison perspective, in the three decades that I have worked in law enforcement, the mental health issues that come together with addiction are unlike anything I ‘ve seen it before, ”he said.
According to MHC main drug data reported by residents of West Michigan, heroin is the second most common drug after alcohol, while synthetic opioids like oxycodone are the third most common .
The rates at which opioids have been identified as the primary drug are also increasing. Heroin was 12.7% in 2016, 19% in 2017, 21.3% in 2018, 22.7% in 2019 and 21.6% in 2020. These totals are based on behavioral health and performance figures. treatment accepted by the state, according to CMH
There is not yet enough data to get a reliable picture of rates for 2021, as the numbers relate to the year October 1 to September 30.
There has also been a significant increase in methamphetamine as the primary drug. Methamphetamine / speed has increased steadily, from 2.1% in 2016 to 15.9% in 2020.
According to Cole, this is wreaking havoc on law enforcement officers and straining the resources of MPs in his office.
“Our staff are not trained to deal with the mentally ill, they are trained to deal with criminals,” Cole said. “There has been such an increase in the mental health component that is linked to addiction, and it’s the hard substances. (Heroin and methamphetamine) have devastating effects on the human brain. “
For people addicted to methamphetamine, there are currently no drugs approved to help with treatment. For people struggling with opioid addiction, however, there are options, and some are available locally.
Through partnerships with the Salvation Army Turning Point and Northwestern Michigan Health Services, CMH provides medical treatment to people struggling with opioid addiction.
According to Josh Snyder, clinical director of West Michigan CMH, the government has approved three drugs for the treatment of opioid dependence: Methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol.
Methadone, an opioid used for the treatment of chronic pain, has also been used for decades to help people get rid of heroin. But it is not available for drug treatment purposes in the West Michigan CMH service area of Mason, Lake and Oceana counties. The nearest clinic is in Muskegon.
There are local programs for the other two treatment drugs – Suboxone and Vivitrol.
Suboxone is a medicine that contains the opioid buprenorphine in combination with naloxone, which blocks opioid receptors in the brain. Like methadone, it is used to deter people from using stronger opiates.
CMH has partnered with the Salvation Army Turning Point to provide Suboxone treatment at locations in Ludington and Baldwin. Turning Point provides the drug, while CMH offers additional outpatient services, according to Snyder.
Vivitrol – or naltrexone – treatments are offered through CMH’s partnership with Northwest Michigan Health Services. Treatment involves monthly injections of the drug, which reduces cravings and also blocks the euphoric effects of opiates on the brain, if a person on treatment is using opioids while receiving injections.
When these drugs are used for treatment, in combination with other outpatient services such as therapy, it can increase success rates for longevity of sobriety, Snyder says.
Mandy Franklin, a recovery coach at CMH, achieved sobriety through an abstinence-based method that involved no medication. She acknowledged that Suboxone uses an opioid to treat opioid addiction, which may be counterintuitive for some. However, she stressed that “not everyone’s journey is the same”.
Franklin said that drugs like Suboxone are generally not implemented as permanent solutions and that CMH works with clients to set goals for how long they see themselves using the drug and how they plan to eventually quit. .
“From there, there are medical steps you take with a doctor (medical treatment) to heal and come out well, so that you are based on abstinence,” Franklin said. “It could take two, three years, six months. Everyone is different. They may need that (Suboxone, Vivitrol, or Methadone) just to have that safety net. “
Franklin said it’s important to understand that some people “can’t even imagine life sober,” and she thinks these treatments are worth it if they can change that mindset.
Franklin said there was a stigma surrounding the use of medical treatment, but losing that stigma would benefit both people with addictions and the communities they inhabit.
“If they choose to take Suboxone or Vivitrol or… even methadone, medically… with a concrete program that is going to support them and make them personalize their own recovery journey, I tell them, go for it,” Franklin said. “If we could take that stigma out and just know that this is someone’s path to recovery, just leave them alone and let them be. At least they’re getting sober.
To access services or to ask questions about medical treatment options at West Michigan CMH, call (800) 992-2061 or visit www.wmcmhs.org.
Connexion Point also offers medical treatment options and can be reached at (231) 690-7921.