News & Press

Community Wellness: Coming soon: Comprehensive approach to prescription and opioids abuse

Community Wellness: Coming soon: Comprehensive approach to prescription and opioids abuse

October 23, 2015

By Robert Lathers, LMSW
CEO, Ionia County Community Mental Health – The Right Door for Hope, Recovery and Wellness

Posted Oct. 23, 2015 at 10:39 PM


More Americans will die this year from prescription drug overdose than from traffic accidents, and that is a fact. The majority of those prescription medications will be opioids.

Opioids include oxycodone, methadone, morphine and heroin. Most prescription pain medications – “pain killers” – are opioids. Two of the most familiar are OxyContin and Vicodin. The lengthy use of prescription pain medication places an individual at jeopardy for addiction, and the likelihood of overcoming the addiction without medically assisted treatment is limited.

Many states, including Michigan, have identified the problem as a public health epidemic. In the spring, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a multidisciplinary task force to study the issue and make recommendations for how Michigan could deal with the epidemic of prescription drug overdose. Those recommendations will be released soon by the governor’s office.

The governor’s task force has been forward thinking and will provide many possible solutions to address prescription and opioids abuse. Monroe, Macomb and Jackson counties have already established community initiatives to address this problem, including sponsoring forums that bring families together to talk about it. Monroe County’s approach is so dynamic that the Monroe Public Schools superintendent has agreed that every high school will offer a mandatory class for students to learn about prescription drugs.

We need to do this in Ionia County. Our efforts need to reach across organization and agency boundaries and should include all of us to curtail this public health epidemic in our community.

Robert Lathers, LMSW, is the CEO of Ionia County Community Mental Health, soon to be “The Right Door for Hope, Recovery and Wellness.” His email address is He welcomes your comments and questions.