COMMUNITY CRISIS: How state lawmakers are fighting opioid abuse

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – A Michigan lawmaker has first-hand experienced with opioid addiction as her sister’s son died from an overdose of pain killers.

It’s a personal tragedy and underlines a significant move by the state to track down would-be drug abusers.

Nick was a scrapping high school football player who is now just a memory for Republican State Rep. Kathy Crawford. “He was like the party animal. Well-liked and wildly popular.”

But after a football injury and his first introduction to pain killers his life dramatically changed over the next five years and no one in his family noticed it.

“The family never did discover there was a problem,” explained Rep. Crawford. “The guilt was so huge. My sister was so smart and so up to date on everything. She was so disappointed in herself not to know and pick-up on the signs.”

The insidious aspect of this opioid epidemic is that the addicted act normal.

In fact, on the fateful day, Nick went to see his mom at her office.

“Mom, I need new jeans,” Rep. Crawford recalls. “So she gave him the money and we know then that he either got a prescription and went back to MSU. And there he died from it.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has been on the cutting edge of attacking this problem and he concedes for years the state failed to track this problem. “There was an old and outdated antiquated system that did not have the level of width or the functionally in today’s practices to be effective.”

It took years to update a new system that allows doctors, law enforcement, pharmacies and rehab centers to track who is giving and getting prescriptions.

It’s called MAPS for “Michigan Automated Prescription System”.

“We want to use the system as a preventative tool, so that they look up a patient record in the system, and look at what they’ve been dispensed by way of controlled substances within the system,” says Kim Gaedeke, Director or LARA’s Bureau of Professional Licensing.

To underscore the dimensions of this problem, in 1999 there were 62 opioid deaths and 33 heroin deaths.

In 2014 the figure mushroom over 900 percent to 568 opioid deaths and 433 heroin deaths and the numbers have not leveled off.

“Last year we had 1000 more people die from opioid abuse than died in car accidents and the deaths have also exceeded cancer” exclaimed Rep. Crawford.

“There is no silver bullet to it,” adds Lt. Gov. Calley. “When you look at the MAPS as being a centerpiece that will allow a lot of other aspects of the response to be more effective. That’s something we obviously have to have.”

Would that system have saved Nick’s life?

For certain it will save somebody elses life, state officials hope.

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