Leaders come together to fight heroin epidemic - WNEM TV 5

Leaders come together to fight heroin epidemic

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BAY COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

The heroin epidemic is a crisis facing law enforcement across the country.

One of the weapons in that fight is information.

On Thursday there was a summit in Mid-Michigan for experts to educate and offer people struggling with addiction the help they need.

"Going through something like that is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do and probably will be the hardest thing I've ever done," said Kristy Kopeck, recovering addict.

Kopeck knows firsthand the struggle of battling a drug addiction. She said she started using when she was 16, but has been clean for seven years now.

"It started out as fun at parties, things like that. And it progressively got worse to the point where I had to have it when I got up in the morning," Kopeck said.

She is just one of the many faces of the opioid epidemic. She joined a packed room for a heroin summit in Bay City aimed at raising awareness.

That is something Bay County Sheriff Troy Cunningham said continues to be a growing problem in the area.

"We're still seeing this on an upswing. It goes in spurts where we're dealing with the overdoses a little more, but I think the heroin's been growing still," Cunningham said.

Barry Schmidt, with the Bay County Prevention Network, broke down some of the things being done to tackle the issue.

"There's a heroin tool kit that's been provided to many people. We're looking to expand that. Additionally, there's drop boxes in various locations. Narcan, which is the agent that reverses the overdose, is available," Schmidt said.

He said the key is stopping it before it starts.

"Prevention is the key to this whole thing. We want to get them before they jump in the water and they're drowning," Schmidt said.

For Kopeck, she said the tables turned when she realized how important it was to be there for her kids.

"I wanted to be happy and live a normal life and be there for my kids. I wanted to take care of them and I wanted them to have their mom," Kopeck said.

She has a message for those struggling with addiction, just like she used to.

"It can get better. You can be happy without drugs. It doesn't always have to be like this," Kopeck said.

The sheriff said the use of narcan has saved more than 100 lives in Bay County alone just this year.

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