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Opioid Summit Held In Washtenaw County

Oct 1, 2019

The Washtenaw Health Initiative Opioid Project, which brings local community organizations together to end the opioid crisis, hosted a summit on Tuesday in Ann Arbor.  The group says this is a crisis that continues to affect people of all ages and backgrounds.  89.1 WEMU’s Jorge Avellan attended the summit and has the story. 


Over 200 people attended the Washtenaw County Opioid Summit held at Washtenaw Community College.  The focus was how stigma continues to impact the opioid crisis in our county.  Jimena Loveluck is the county health officer.

Jimena Loveluck: Stigma is a very challenging area to tackle, because it has an impact in so many different ways.  One of those ways is presenting a barrier or an obstacle for people getting the services and the help they need, because they are either afraid or ashamed to disclose that they might have a problem or that they might have an addiction.

But those obstacles haven’t kept the Washtenaw County Health Department from making some improvements.  Between January and May of 2019, opioid related deaths in the county decreased by 22% compared to last year during that same period.  Last year, a total of 81 people died of an opioid related overdose in our county.  Loveluck says the use of Naloxone, medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose, has made a difference. 

Jimena Loveluck: During the last few years now, we have been able to put funds and resources towards making Naloxone more available.  Having more people trained, not just law enforcement and first responders but community members also trained so that if they are with someone who is overdosing or had overdosed, they’re able to administer Naloxone and potentially save a life.

During the summit, the Washtenaw County Health Department also mentioned that, thanks to partnerships with local addiction treatment groups, such as Workit Health, they’ve seen a 12% decrease in the overall opioid related poisonings reported in the county.

Lisa McLaughlin is the co-founder of Workit Health in Ann Arbor.  They offer recovery services by phone 24-hours a day. 

Lisa McLaughlin: As a way to meet people where they are and to get them where they’re trying to go because many people are in the very early stages of readiness and aren’t ready to make that full leap into an intensive patient program.  And so, we are able to work with them, build supports around them and then get them there if they need to go there.  But often times, we find people can use the Telehealth alone to recover.

Twenty-seven year old Cody Roark suffered from opioid addiction in the past and is now in recovery.  He was the keynote speaker at the summit and says local addiction treatment resources saved his life.

Cody Roark: A good chunk of people who get addicted to substances can’t quit without assistance, so it’s crucial.  There would be a lot more deaths and a lot more people currently struggling if we didn’t have the current resources that we have.  I think if we had a bolster in community resources we can keep those numbers going down.

Dr. Joel Krauss is an emergency physician at St. Joe’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.  He also attended the summit and says he’s seeing a new trend of opioid related cases in the ER.

Dr. Joel Krauss: Folks who are with opioid withdraws.  So they haven’t been able to get their opioids so they’re withdrawing, so they’ve been having symptoms of anxiety, fast heart rate, and diarrhea.  And this is now the big push for treatment in our department.  How can we help those patients so they don’t go back to using street heroin, getting fentanyl or misusing their opioid medication?  So one of our big initiatives now is recognizing these patients with opioid use disorders while they’re in the emergency department.

The county is also working with local law enforcement agencies to continue addressing the opioid crisis in Washtenaw County.

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu