Shirkey op-ed: Town hall advanced the conversation on opioid misuse Town hall advanced the conversation on opioid misuse

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By Sen. Mike Shirkey
16th Senate District

Last month we held a town hall in Coldwater to discuss possible solutions to the rise of opioid misuse in Michigan. The event was a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with health experts and concerned residents and talk about ways to address this problem.

Nearly two dozen people from the community attended the event, including guests from the medical field and local health providers. Those without a health background learned a great deal from the medical experts about the topic of opioids and opioid misuse.

Thanks go out to all who participated and attended. We are very grateful to the speakers who volunteered their time, and for the people with firsthand knowledge who spoke up and shared their experience and expertise. We hope you will keep an eye out for future town hall meetings.

In anticipation of October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, it may be helpful to revisit the topic of opioids and opioid misuse.

For those who may not know, an opioid is an opium-like compound that relieves pain by binding to an opioid receptor in the body. Opioids include morphine as well as the commonly prescribed painkillers hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.

Heroin, an opioid synthesized from morphine, might be the most well-known dangerous opioid. The Daily Reporter and Hillsdale Daily newspapers both have reported this year on the dangers of heroin addiction and overdoses in this area of the state.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research suggests that abuse of prescribed opioids “may open the door to heroin abuse.”

A contributing factor is the problem of so-called “orphaned drugs.” Orphaned drugs are leftover medications forgotten in medicine cabinets, which then become accessible to those who have not been prescribed the medication, such as guests in the home, children, or even thieves who break in to steal the drugs.

The Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) collects prescription information on certain controlled substances and allows physicians, dentists, and other health professionals to check MAPS for patient-specific reports.

In theory, this lets practitioners determine if patients are receiving controlled substances from other providers and helps prevent prescription drug abuse. But in practice, the system is currently too outdated and cumbersome to be an effective tool. Legislation is being considered to solve this problem.

Thank you again to those who came and engaged with this issue. This event highlighted how important this discussion is in Branch County, and how many people are already working to provide help for those who struggle with opioid misuse. We are thankful for their leadership.

Call our office at 517-373-5932 any time if you would like to get a copy of the information sheet from the town hall.

Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is the chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee. He serves the residents of Michigan’s 16th Senate District, which includes Branch, Hillsdale and Jackson counties.