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Local coalition targets growing heroin epidemic in northern Michigan

Local coalition targets growing heroin epidemic in northern Michigan

(WPBN/WGTU) - Drug use in northern Michigan is a growing problem, especially when it comes to heroin.

But a new substance abuse coalition is Grand Traverse County is looking to change that.

Between January 2016 and last week, there have been 66 cases in Grand Traverse County involving narcotics drugs, the majority of which involved heroin, according to Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.

Cooney says he's modeling the coalition here after another downstate.

Cooney first proposed the idea in February, after he heard about the success of a similar coalition in Monroe County.

"We're trying to just get the organizational structure put together so that this is an effective and sustainable organization," said Cooney.

The Substance Abuse Coalition of the Traverse Bay Area is made up of leaders from multiple organizations, representing five counties.

Together they want to generate ideas to stop what Cooney calls an epidemic.

"We're losing more people to heroin overdoses than we do in a typical year to car fatalities," Cooney said.

While efforts have increased significantly from his office as well as the narcotics team to stop dealers from bringing illegal drugs into the county, Cooney says it's going to take more than arrests to end it.

"Its going to take a community effort," he said.

Cooney says it's important for people to know that this is a battle that doesn't just impact heroin users.

"It's their family, it's their friends, it's a larger community that is impacted by this," Cooney said.

It's something Robin Sommer knows all too well, following the death of her son last year. She too is trying to spread the message, and has started the only narcotics anonymous group in Antrim County.

"My goal is to break down the stigma, it's to get some education and prevention measures out into the community, it's to stop silence basically and to start the conversation," Sommer said.

Cooney says a large percentage of crime in the county including break-ins, larcenies, domestic violence and even criminal sexual conduct is being fueled by the current drug problem.

He plans to have a kick-off event for the coalition in September and is inviting community members who are interested in learning more about the issue, to attend.


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