JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — People across the country and right here in mid-Michigan are reacting to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
One of them is a drug recovery advocate from Jackson County, who spoke with the Trump administration about the opioid problem earlier this year.
Mike Hirst is well known in the Jackson community for getting the word out about this issue.
He welcomes news of the declaration, but he hopes it will do more than just throw more money at the problem.
It’s a public health emergency declaration that Mike Hirst says is long overdue.
“But, it means a lot. I couldn’t be happier about it,” Hirst said.
Hirst created the drug recovery group Andy’s Angels after his son, Andy, died of a heroin overdose.
Back in May, Hirst met Governor Rick Snyder, White House Counselor Kelly Anne Conway, and Tom Price, who at the time was the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“They’re really concerned. They are gathering all the facts. And that’s what’s taken a while,” Hirst said.
Hirst says over the next 90 days this declaration will release more funds to help people battle opioid addiction.
“Freeing up that money for a lot of rural areas that are really suffering from this problem,” Hirst said.
He hopes this will result in more than just check-writing.
“For far too long in this country, we’ve wasted dollars. About $78 billion in 2015 was the statistic that we spent on this problem. And it’s gotten worse,” Hirst said. “We want to throw money at the problem in a way that we get a return on that money.”
Hirst sees the problem as a national emergency, and thinks President Trump should have given it a higher designation.
But he believes this is an important first step that’s raising awareness.
“There is still a lot of people out there who have no idea what’s going on. They hear a little bit about it. And say ‘Gee, it’s not going to happen in my family. I’m not that concerned about it.’ I was one of those people who said that seven years ago,” Hirst said.
He says work to battle his problem continues in Jackson.
Right now he’s working to get a facility in the city of Jackson that would help people with long-term recovery.