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Listen to The Hidden Epidemic full documentary

Jul 17, 2015
courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

The Hidden Epidemic is a State of Opportunity documentary on the opiate drug epidemic in Michigan.

It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit. It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates. While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC/ JGPR.Net

This is the third part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on the air today at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., or catch up online. Part one is here. Part two is here.  

It’s been a decade. Maybe more. Thousands have died. Many more had their lives destroyed. It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit.

It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates.

While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

Eugene Atkins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for selling heroin that led to a young man's death.
courtesy of the Atkins family

 This is the second part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Part one is here.

On October 27th, 1986, President Reagan signed a new law to fight drug use in America. Buried within that law were new penalties for those convicted of selling drugs. The premise behind these penalties was to get the most serious drug offenders off the streets, and send a message that dealing drugs in America is a crime that does not pay.

Eugene Atkins never got that message.

courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

This is the first part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Or, subscribe to the State of Opportunity podcast on iTunes to hear each part as it’s released.

Mary DeBoer still remembers how it felt in the winter of 2004.

“Everything was fine,” she tells me, sitting at her kitchen table as the sun goes down behind her. “There was no threat or scariness that something was imminent, that something was going to happen.”

She remembers sitting at this same table, every night for family dinner. Every night at 6 o’clock sharp. No matter what else was going on, Mary, her husband and her three children would sit down here for dinner. Until their last night together, on December 14th, 2004.

Ana C. / flickr

Dr. April Ping is a pediatrician in Livingston county. She's known by foster parents in her area as somebody who understands the complications the foster care system brings, and the health concerns it creates for kids.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Sometimes a family needs more out of a trip to the doctor than what a physician can provide. In those instances, an attorney might be what the doctor orders. It's called a medical-legal partnership, and there are 36 states that have them including one in Michigan that’s helped hundreds of low-income families over the past decade.

Hailee Rose is seven years old, with blond hair and a shy smile who loves math and spelling bees. She has a rare genetic disorder called 22Q, which can manifest itself in many different ways. In Hailee's case, it severely impacts her speech and language development.

Battling obesity (and maybe Hot Cheetos) in Michigan schools

May 8, 2015
USAG-Humphreys / flickr

The number of obese preschool kids in Michigan is going down, that's the good news.

The health of older kids and adults, however, is not improving that way. Michigan is the 11th most overweight state in the country.

There's an idea that's taken hold in the past few years about why it is that poor people, on average, eat less healthy food and have higher rates of obesity. The idea is simply that people in neighborhoods marked by poverty lack access to healthy food choices. Somewhere along the way (most likely starting in the U.K.) a person with an ear for good marketing decided to label these kinds of neighborhoods "food deserts."

Now, there's even a public service announcement dedicated to ending food deserts in the U.S.

The 2014 Farm Bill called for spending $125 million to attack food deserts by funding new stores or markets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in low income areas. But this year, Congress decided to strip funding for the program

A new economic study argues this may have been the right decision. 

flickr/bradadozier

Last week, a child showed up at the MidMichigan Health Medical Center in Clare with a suspicious set of symptoms. The child’s visit led to a phone call. That phone call led to an arrest.

Police told a local TV news station the child’s dad had been cooking methamphetamine inside the home. Yesterday, I reported that a record number of children were exposed to meth production last year in Michigan. The Clare case shows the problem hasn’t stopped this year, either.

When I was reporting the story, I called a doctor at the health center where the child showed up last week. Dr. Abid Khan isn’t the one who saw the child. But he is an expert on addiction. He runs a clinic at the center, and meets with addicts regularly.

He told me the way addiction is treated today is all wrong.

Sharyn Morrow / Flickr

Dr. Vincent Felitti, father of the seminal Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study that has informed so much of State of Opportunity’s reporting and recently this NPR series, was recently in Michigan for a conference on how adverse childhood experiences affect health.

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