Posted by Linda Lynch
Editarian’s note: Be forewarned that this is a rather long recounting of our meeting on February 2nd. I don’t believe I am known for brevity to begin with, and I thought today’s program so important that I am choosing to include most of the information that was presented. If you were not there, I urge you to read this in its entirety. If you are pressed for time, either save it for later, or skip to the notes from our speaker’s presentation.
 
Rotarians who gathered at the University Club on this cold February day were rewarded with a delicious lunch that offered a choice of salmon or flank steak and many accompaniments. President Brewster called the meeting to order promptly at 12:30. Barb Lezotte gave the invocation, focused on turmoil which she deemed very appropriate considering all of the events swirling around our community. Our patriotic song was ‘God Bless America’ and we were ably accompanied, as usual, by John Dale Smith.
 
Lisa Smith grabbed the microphone from President Brewster and found today’s guests – Jim Long, invited by Jenn Dubey; Joy Whitten, a new staff member at Davies Group accompanying Pam Miklavcic; and Nicole Noll Williams, a guest of Tim Daman. Dick Ammons let us know that, as far as we know, the health of the club is good.
 
President Brewster presented red badges to three new members – Matthew Hess, who works at Merrill Lynch and is sponsored by Craig Stiles; Jason Brunette, from Martin Property Development, sponsored by Mark Hooper; and Barb Whitney, Executive Director of the Lansing Art Gallery, sponsored by Jack Davis.
 
Chris Chamberlain was the winner of our weekly social media posting contest. Melissa Nay reminded everyone to post using #LansingRotary to be eligible for the weekly contest – and more importantly, let others in our community know about our club and the wonderful programs each week.
 
President Brewster let us all know that tickets for the Blackthorn Celtic Band performance on March 25th are available from Cathy. Proceeds from this event will benefit East Lansing Rotary’s Weekend Survival Kit project.
 
Ken Beachler introduced our special music, Juliana Marks, an accomplished oboist from Haslett High School. She will be competing in this weekend’s Solo and Ensemble contest, and plans to study music in college. Auditions are just beginning for admission, so she doesn’t yet know where she will be studying. If today’s performance is any indication, she will surely receive an award in the competition this weekend, and will have lots of offers for admission! As I listened to her selection, the words bright, airy and bouncy came to my mind. Thoughts of spring seemed to be everywhere. The finish must surely have left her breathless as one note followed the other with no hint of even a slight pause – let alone an actual breath!
After thanking Juliana for sharing her talent, President Brewster introduced our Chair of the Month and Day – Anne Cauley. Rather than run through our speaker’s bio, Anne chose instead to tell us a bit about why today’s topic is so important to her. Of course, she is a health professional, but she also has a brother who is currently lost to addiction. The November headline in the LSJ – Police Chief: ‘We are Losing’ Opioid Battle – caught her attention as she realizes that people are dying everywhere, every day.
 
Mike Jankowski was named Lansing’s Chief of Police in 2013 and immediately began work on the opioid crisis. At that time, the problem was huge on the East Coast, but was just beginning to reach the Midwest. At that time, Lansing saw about 10 cases a year; today more than 200 cases are seen a year, a dramatic increase in less than 5 years, in spite of efforts began to fight this battle when he took office.
 
Today, he receives a daily update on the problem. His latest update reported 3 overdoses, with one resulting in death. This epidemic affects all walks of life – rich and poor, old and young. Most of us know someone who has been affected by this problem in some way. Typically, the addiction begins with pain medications. Last year there were 175 deaths a day nationwide, up from 91 the previous year. Over 64,000 died last year – a number higher than the number of soldiers who died in the Vietnam war.
 
This problem has been years in the making, starting with prescription drug abuse sparked by pharmaceutical company and doctors. Although the US represents only 5% of the world’s population, we account for 90% of global opioid use. There is a small town in West Virginia with a population of 392 that was prescribed 9 million pills over 2 years. (Editarian’s note – if I did the math right, that is about 31.5 pills/day per person – astounding!)
 
Once the prescription medications are exhausted, addicts turn to heroin. Heroin is cheaper and easier to get than prescriptions. As the quality and potency of heroin improves, overdoses become common. The LPD reported 239 overdoses in 2017, with 19 deaths and 19 patients revived with Naloxone/Narcan. The use of Naloxone has reduced the fatality rate although the number of overdoses continues to rise. Some addicts turn to Fentanyl, which can be mail ordered from China. Although the drug is illegal, 8 or 10 shipments reach their destination in the US. Fentanyl is much more potent than heroin, making it very easy to overdose.
 
There are two options for addicts – long term treatment or death. The LPD sees multiple overdoses; an overdose rarely convinces the addict to stop using.
 
The LPD is focusing on community policing through the public health officer. There are four areas of focus: Data Gathering; Awareness, Education, Prevention; Treatment; Accountability. There is a community wide task force – a public/private partnership that publishes a monthly report and collaborates on community policing efforts.
 
Awareness, Education and Prevention takes a number of forms. Promotion of prescription turn in events, use of the FBI’s Chasing the Dragon video (Editarian’s note: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqdmWRExOkQ, 49 minutes and well worth your time), social media toolkits and billboards.
 
Naloxone (Narcan is brand), standard issue today for all LPD officers, is just a band aid. It is also used by the fire department and more often than by LPD. LFD administered 568 doses in 2017. They may need to use multiple doses for one incident. Naloxone can bring an addict back from death if administered in time.
 
LPD recognizes that they cannot arrest their way out of this problem. They participate in the Michigan State Police Angel program, Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) and Hope, Not Handcuffs. Any addict can come to the LPD and ask for help without fear of being charged or arrested (excepting cases where they have serious warrants outstanding). They also make house visits after an overdose incident. LPD also works with RISE, a program that operates 9 homes that assist with an addicts transition from rehab to normal life.
 
Accountability is less about the user and more about suppliers. Homicide charges are brought against dealers. Charges are sometimes brought against doctors and pharmaceutical distributors. Michigan has also joined nationwide class action litigation efforts.
 
The financial impact of this problem is huge. LPD has calculated that nearly $750,000 was expended over 2 years to fight this problem. That doesn’t include expenditures by the LFP or communities surrounding Lansing.
 
Answers/comments during Q&A
 
The age range of overdose victims is 14 – 67. The average is a 44 year old white male.
 
Marijuana is not really a factor in getting addicted to opiates. Typically, it begins with access to prescription drugs. Some doctors, specifically oral surgeons, are allowed to prescribe opiates, but have not been trained to prescribe them properly. Many times, they are overprescribing and including refills when they are not necessary.
 
There is a shortage of treatment options, and having good insurance can make it more difficult to get treatment. Insurance plans typically have very high deductibles, which can be impossible for an addict to pay. If the addict is covered by Medicaid, there is no high deductible and admission for treatment is easier.
 
Michael Clark commented that organized medicine is responsible for creating this problem. When you see a medical professional and report pain, you are asked to rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10. Pain medication is prescribed to reduce/eliminate the pain. At the conclusion of your treatment, you are asked to rate your experience and ratings are higher when pain is lower. The pendulum has swung too far and medical professionals should stop asking patients to rate their pain.
 
Some communities are experimenting with safe spots for drug use. Vancouver is seeing some success with this type of program. Other communities are forcing treatment and that can work for some as well. Every situation is different.
 
Gangs in our area are smaller than they have been in the past. A typical gang is 4 – 10 people and focuses on heroin and marijuana. Drugs coming into our area typically come from Chicago through Detroit.
 
Pills can be turned in at any time at the LPD headquarters. If you are prescribed medication, you should turn in what you don’t use so that it does not end up in the hands of your children or other family members.
 
Some businesses keep Naloxone on hand in case of an overdose in their buildings. It is also available in some public places.
 
How can we help? The MSP Angel program relies on volunteers to transport addicts for treatment. Funding for gas cards is also needed. LPD relies on grans to purchase Naloxone. We can also spread the word about the problem. Educate your family and your co-workers. Make sure that you get rid of pills and take them only if they are really needed.
 
Mike Yankowski contact info – 517-483-4801 – Michael.Yankowski@lansingmi.gov
 
President Brewster thanked Chief Yankowski for speaking to us and commented that many pharmacies also take back unused prescriptions. He also presented the Rotary coin and commented that we will be donating money to a bio-sand water filter project in lieu of a speakers gift.
 
Next week, we will be back at the Lansing Center, Mark Alley, Vice President of Global Protective Services, will be our speaker.
 
The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
 
Linda Lynch's email is:  llynch@trivalentgroup.com