KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — The Kalamazoo County Drug and Opioid Epidemic Report released Monday showed showed an increase in overdoses, hospital visits and deaths from 2015 to 2017.
The report showed the number of people in Kalamazoo County using prescription opioids was higher than the national average. According to the study there were 63 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in Kalamazoo County, which was down significantly from 2011 when there were 104 prescriptions for every 100 people. It's important to note that is not a percentage of the population.
"Number of prescriptions continues to decrease. Amount and strength continues to decrease," said Dr. William Nettleton, Medical Director Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services.
The amount and strength of opioids prescribed decreased by 22.6 percent from 2015 to 2017. However, Nettleton said Kalamazoo County was above the national average.
While the number of prescriptions decreased, emergency room visits for opioid overdoses continued to rise as well as deaths.
"That's largely attributable to the opioid known as fentanyl," said Nettleton.
Ashley Bergeon, the task force coordinator for Prevention Works, said the numbers on the report didn't surprise her. She said opioid and drug use among youth was on the way down though.
"We've been working really diligently with our community partners to address the opioid related epidemic. In the last few years we've really seen the community pull together and collaborate on this issue," said Bergeon.
Bergeon and Nettleton said there's hope for everyone battling addiction if the community continued to focus on four areas.
"Prevention education, supply and control of prescribed opioids and illegal opioids in our community, but also treatment and harm reduction in our community," said Nettleton.
Nettleton said fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic so he said we need to focus on harm reduction education and treatment.