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Detectives call Kalamazoo the "epicenter" of meth in Michigan; agencies seeing uptick

WWMT - epicenter of meth for Michigan
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A major drug bust in West Michigan revealed a big methamphetamine issue and detectives in Tuesday night’s bust said meth is being shipped and distributed to the area at an alarming rate.

Detective Lt. Jim Lass, a member of the Michigan State Police Southwest Enforcement Team (SWET), said SWET is made of law enforcement personnel from several agencies to take down drug dealers. He said crystal meth, known as Ice, is making a comeback in the area at an alarming rate.

“There’s a lot of Ice in Kalamazoo. It’s probably the epicenter of Ice in Michigan right now,” said Lass. “We get so many tips and we work so much on Ice and there’s still so much still here.”

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said there is an average 100 people in jail for meth related charges. Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the overall number of meth related cases has doubled in the last three years. He explained one in five felony charges are for possessing selling or manufacture meth.

Lass said Andre Hollin and Tyrone Hollin, who are brothers, were arrested on federal drug warrants and accused of trafficking more than 400 pounds of meth and crystal meth over the past two years between Kalamazoo and California. He said the men are from Michigan and have a property in California, further explain the Hollin brothers were getting there crystal meth from Mexico.

The detective said during a bust Tuesday night that 27 pounds of crystal meth were hidden inside the panels of a car traveling from California. He said the bust and arrest was a success, but the war on drugs is not over.

“Michigan is changing from the one-pot bottle dope, where the locals make it themselves and sell it themselves, to Ice being shipped in. The crystal meth, the cartel, meth is being shipped in now,” said Lass.

Joel Smith, who works for Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health, said the organization provides services to people who want to beat substance use disorders, specifically for those on Medicaid or uninsured.

“It’s frightening to know that meth is, again, on the incline. As soon as those numbers go down, they start to creep back up,” said Smith. “Historically, this area has had a pretty significant problem with methamphetamine use."

Smith, a substance use disorder services manager, said the top three substances the organization treats most are alcohol, opioids and meth.

“In fact, since 2016, the number of individuals that have entered treatment with methamphetamine use as their number one drug of use has doubled,” said Smith. “We have programs, specific programs in place to help treat individuals who enter treatment.”

Ashley Bergeon, a Task Force program coordinator for Prevention Works, said the group has been studying teen substance use data for the past eight years.

“We’ve actually watched teen substance use decline, which has been great. And that’s been marijuana, prescription, alcohol, all those substances,” said Bergeon.

Prevention Works is an organization designed to promote prevention and intervention for youth who’ve had experiences with substance use. Bergeon said they have seen a 10 percent increase in e-cigarette use.

She said parents getting involved with their kids early can prevent substance use and lower the chances of meth use in the future.

“If they’re already using substances, then we’re talking about intervention practices and that can be anything from them talking to a counselor or a trusted teacher or friend. And it could be them seeking treatment,” said Bergeon.

Smith said despite the substance, there are several organizations will to provide resources to those who want to get clean.

“If it doesn’t happen the first time, or the fifth time, or the 10th time that’s why there’s hope. Recovery can work,” said Smith. “Just because you tried one way doesn’t mean that there’s not another way that can work for you. And it’s all individualized.”

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