Panel discusses local opioid crisis

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There is no simple or singular solution to the opioid crisis facing the United States. At least, that was the consensus at a panel discussion in Huntsville Friday, sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug Free Community.

One panelist, Madison County Coroner Tyler Berryhill, told the audience, “From 2015, we were seeing a drug related death occur once every 7 days in Madison County. In 2017, we are seeing a drug related death occur once every five days."

The numbers are bad and they're getting worse, according to the panelists, who deal with the opioid crisis on a regular basis. In Madison County, drugs now claim more lives than traffic accidents.

“So those numbers have surpassed the traffic fatalities for our county alone already,” Berryhill says.

For two hours, the panelists shared their statistics and their personal stories.

“So we arrest her and put her in jail. You know who gets her out? It's not her mom and dad. No. It's the people selling the heroin she was hooked on. Why did they do that? Because they wanted to keep on using her, for her services and delivering the dope and making transactions and doing all those things,” according to Captain Mike Salomonsky of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

Salomonsky says despite their best efforts to separate the girl from the drugs, and those who sell them, they failed. She died of an overdose.

If there was a consensus, it was education may be the key to eventually turning the crisis around.

“It's a sad situation, and this event today, this panel, the key point to me is to educate people, educate the family members,” says HEMSI’s Don Webster.

And educate the children.

“If you don't want to do drugs, which you shouldn't, it's okay to say no,” says 17-year old high school student Janaiya Mason. She added, “It's okay to tell somebody. It's okay to educate other people and be like don't do this, it's bad for you. It's okay to speak up to help others." She hopes to take that message to her school this fall and share it with others. It's a  start.

For help in educating young people about the dangers of opioid addiction, several panelists recommended a new video produced by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. It's called “Chasing the Dragon," and it's available online free of charge. To view the video, CLICK HERE.