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Mid-Michigan opioid epidemic fight getting tougher

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Dec 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-09 16:25:52-05

JACKSON, Mich. (WSYM) - The fight to contain the opioid epidemic in Mid-Michigan is getting tougher and it's not just prescription painkillers.

From more dangerous addicts to more potent heroin, first responders are having to take more precautions than ever on the streets.

The Jackson County Drug Summit was held on the campus of Jackson College Friday, discussing the dangers of the opioid crisis.

They're hoping they can turn the tide with education.

“Knowledge is power because you have to know what you’re dealing with to be able to face it,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka.

Police, health department, doctors, even college students are learning about the dangers of the deadly drug.

“Two to three years ago you never heard anything about opioids and its potential for addiction,” said Derrick White from Jackson’s Narcotics Enforcement Team. “Now I think everyone understands how dangerous these drugs can be and they're paying attention when being prescribed by a doctor.”

Police say they continue to find more of heroin laced with fentanyl, even Carfentanil which is used to sedate elephants.

It's gotten so bad officers in Jackson County must now wear full-on protective gear.

“It’ll get on your skin and your skin absorbs it,” said White. “You can overdose very easily so we take every precaution possible when handling materials.”

Officers have accidentally overdosed just by handling it, forcing first responders to use the life-saving drug Narcan on each other.

It's being used so much on officers and on overdose patients, police are spending a huge chunk of change on the drug. That’s if they can even afford it at all.

“If it wasn’t for the budget I think all of these agencies would have it on hand and all agencies do not have it at this point,” said White. “The more it becomes available, if we're able to secure some funding, I think eventually you’re going to see all officers carry it on duty.”

By raising awareness and making prescription drop-offs available, it’s a start to fighting a big epidemic on Mid-Michigan streets.

“The bottom line is there is no silver bullet to solve the epidemic,” said Jarzynka. “What it’s going to take is a number of different actions by different citizens, different groups working together to beat the epidemic.”

The Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) says it's getting more drugs off the streets of Jackson County this year compared to years past.

The number of cocaine seizures has doubled.

If you have unwanted or unused prescription drugs, all Michigan State Police (MSP) posts serve as drop off locations.

Click here for a list of MSP post locations.