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Reps. Walberg, Dingell Join Sheriff Clayton for Opioid Town Hall

August 21, 2017
Press Release

Saline, Mich. – U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07) and U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today joined Washtenaw Sheriff Jerry Clayton for a town hall discussion on the opioid crisis and mental health in Washtenaw County. The Sheriff and Representatives were joined by community leaders and health experts to answer questions and discuss federal, state and local efforts to address the opioid epidemic, substance use disorders and other key issues.

“Opioid addiction hits close to home for so many families and communities in Michigan,” said Congressman Walberg. “We must continue to work in a bipartisan way to foster greater awareness, encourage best practices, and promote collaboration to tackle this growing crisis. As part of this effort, tonight’s town hall brought the community together for an important conversation about how we can reverse the trends of the opioid epidemic.”

“Tonight we came together to declare war on an epidemic in our community – opioid addiction,” said Congresswoman Dingell. “I spent my childhood living with people caught in this nightmare and know the impact on families firsthand. We lost my sister to addiction and eventually a drug overdose. This devastating disease is destroying too many families in Michigan and across the country and I am deeply committed to helping find answers to this nightmare. At the same time, we must be careful to not stigmatize those with real and legitimate needs. That is why this conversation is so important. This town hall is about listening to people’s stories and their concerns, learning about the impact and working together to find solutions.”

“Mental Health disability and Substance Use disorder, especially an addiction to opioids, present significant challenges in our community. But not as difficult as the challenges these conditions present to so many individuals and families in Washtenaw County and across the nation,” said Sheriff Clayton. “Developing comprehensive and sustainable solutions are required and will not be easy. We cannot continue to wait for someone else to provide all the answers. We as a community must commit to engaging in challenging conversations and working together for the singular purpose of creating systems that provides proactive services, helps eliminate stigma, and supports individuals suffering from a mental health disability or a substance use disorder. Hopefully tonight's conversation moves us closer to that reality.”

In 2015, Michigan had the 15th highest rate of death due to drug overdose in the U.S. with 1,980 lives lost. In 2016, there were 11 million opioid prescriptions filled in Michigan, more than the population of the entire state.

Earlier this year, Walberg and Dingell introduced Jessie’s Law to help solve one piece of the puzzle. The bipartisan bill, named after Michigan resident Jessie Grubb who tragically died of an opioid overdose last year, would ensure doctors have access to a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction in order to make fully informed care and treatment decisions. Providing this information would help prevent cases like Jessie’s, where a recovering addict in Ann Arbor was unknowingly prescribed and discharged with a powerful opioid that led to her death.