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Washtenaw County invites discussion of opioid crisis

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The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office is hosting an open community meeting on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, to discuss the rising rates of opioid-related fatalities in the county. Nearly 300 people have died in Washtenaw County from opioid overdoses since 2011. In 2016, opioid-related fatalities outnumbered automobile accident fatalities. That reflects overall trends across the country. 

County Sheriff Jerry Clayton says that turning those trends around will require more than addressing crime and emergency situations. "It is a challenge that continues to spiral out of control and we have to take a step back as a community and decide what is the best approach to stemming this tide. It's not just law enforcement. You can't arrest our way out of this," says Clayton. 

Officers with the Sheriff's department have been able to carry Narcan, a life-saving antidote for opioid overdose, since 2016. In spite of that, the first seven months of 2017 have seen more opioid overdose deaths than the same period in 2016. In January through July of 2016, 30 people died, as opposed to 34 during that period in 2017.

State representative Adam Zemke, U.S. representative Debbie Dingell, and U.S. representative Tim Walberg are scheduled to attend the meeting, as well as Jerry Clayton. They'll invite community members to participate in a conversation about solutions, particularly preventive strategies like education.

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