MONROE, MI (WTOL) - The growing opioid problem is tearing apart families here in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, as it is also on the rise nationwide. A meeting with key influencers was held tonight at Monroe High School.
A community forum was held to raise awareness, collaborate on solutions, and increase education about the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Discussions like this are a rare meeting of great minds from different fields.
Wednesday night's panel featured local leaders from law enforcement, and the medical community, as well as various non-profits.
Congressman Tim Walberg is the current Michigan District 7 delegate in the US House of Representatives. He spearheaded the forum.
"We're starting to really sit up and take notice, because we've seen that it's not just a criminality, it's a victimization. Now, how do we work together to find a solution that allows people to deal with pain, but not get into addiction that takes their lives," Walberg said.
This meeting was free and open to the public so that all were welcome to share their stories, ideas, and concerns as a community. That, the congressman said, is the first success of many in this uphill battle.
Many of the forum's attendees personally experienced the loss or are still dealing with near loss of an immediate family member.
One woman who was there from Newport Michigan, Deandre Meiring, lost her 20-year-old son just eight weeks ago. Meiring told her story while holding back tears.
"He started in 10th grade taking Adderall, and then it progressed on from there to pain pills, anxiety medication, and that, and then he went into rehab three times, and after this last stint in rehab he was out for about two weeks and then he overdosed," she explained.
Meiring's hope is to take action to keep this from happening to others. She is working to become an addiction counselor and to get the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program either moved up from the fifth grade to the seventh grade, or taught again to kids at an older age.
Jennifer Sell, the Director of Pharmacy for ProMedica Monroe Hospital, the only hospital in Monroe County, was one of the panelists who was answering questions to help explain ideas and local resources to those present.
"There's always something to learn. There's a story that someone will share. There's an experience that someone has that I think we can all learn from," Sell said.
Of all the discussions shared , there was one common theme: It's time to make a difference and not let this rising pattern of addiction go on.
Other panelists in attendance included: William Nichols, Monroe County Prosecutor; George Barath, Ryan's Hope Foundation; Wendy Klinski, Catholic Charities of SE Michigan; Vicky Loveland, Monroe County Substance Abuse Coalition, United Way of Monroe County; and Lt. Marc Moore, Michigan State Police.