LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is forming a new task force to combat opioid abuse in the state.
Schuette announced the Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit initiative at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday, alongside Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
“It comes from a lot of difference sources,” Schuette said. “And, as David says, you can do down the street in a city in Michigan and you can get heroin because it’s so cheap right now.”
Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, synthetics such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine and others.
Health officials say the heroin problem has become an epidemic in Southeast Michigan, including in some Detroit’s wealthiest suburbs. The state’s rate of heroin-related overdose deaths doubled from 2009 to 2014; overall overdose deaths have tripled since 1999.
Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of people who have used the drug has grown by nearly 300,000 over the past decade, doubling among young adults ages 18 to 25.
Schuette said police departments cannot “arrest our way out” of this problem.
“We’re after the dealers, we’re after the traffickers and we’re after the over-(prescribers),” he said. “In terms of the bad docs that over-(prescribe), we’re on their case too.”
Schuette said six people have already been convicted, and another 15 are facing charges as a result of his office’s efforts.
WWJ Newsradio 950 will be broadcasting live this week from Mackinac Island as hundreds of the state’s most prominent business and political leaders are gathered for the 37th Annual Mackinac Policy Conference, hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. Stay tuned for continuing coverage.