Most of us have heard that our country is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Many people wonder what is being done locally to help combat this issue. Beginning in our planning phase, we knew that we needed to do our part to impact the issue. Together with our partners, we’re addressing the local opiate crisis by increasing resources and awareness, educating the community, and connecting prevention and treatment service systems.

Additionally, we’ve developed projects and events that help to further limit the impact of opiate misuse and prescribing practices in Mason County:

• We’re proud to share that we’ve co-hosted two Medication Take Back events with our partnering agencies, and plan to carry these events into the next year. In October 2018, we collected 50 pounds of medications, sharps and liquids. We were excited to see that number rise for our April event, when we collected 89 pounds, including more than 1,200 opiate pills.

These events were made possible, thanks to the hard work of volunteers from The Leeward Initiative, Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, West Michigan Community Mental Health, Michigan State Police, Scottville Police Department and the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

• To date, we’ve helped to provide medication disposal units at the Ludington and Scottville police departments and the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. Walgreens and Meijer have recently followed suit by adding a disposal unit in their pharmacy areas. If you’re not able to get to a disposal unit or cannot attend our Medication Take Back events, we can provide medication disposal packets, which contain a powder that, when added with water, safely dissolves and deactivates medication so that it can be thrown away.

• Our Opiates Work Group also spearheaded a Medication Lock Box project. To date, we’ve distributed 175 lockboxes through partnering sites in our community West Michigan Community Mental Health, the local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Ludington Police Department, Mason County Parole and Probation, The Health Project of Mercy Health and Spectrum Health. This spring, we expanded partnerships to include COVE and Hospitality INC. Each resident in Mason County is eligible to receive a free lockbox to help secure medications, sharps and liquids in their home.

Visit a partnering site to receive a lockbox today. Supplies are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

• To help prevent opiate-related overdoses and reduce stigma about addiction, our coalition encourages residents of Mason County to be trained in using naloxone to reverse an opiate overdose. In Mason County, three pharmacies are approved to dispense naloxone under Michigan’s standing order (Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart). The standing order ensures that a person at risk for an opiate overdose — or a family member, friend or other person — has access to a resource that can reverse an overdose and prevent death. If you’re seeking more in-depth training, CMH in Ludington offers naloxone trainings on the third Tuesday of every month between noon and 5 p.m. After completing the 20-minute training, you’ll receive a free naloxone rescue kit.

Are you concerned about the opiate issue? Do you want to get involved, or find out more about what The Leeward Initiative is doing to address it? We encourage you to join us at our next meeting: Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. at the Health Department, 916 Diana St. in Ludington. If you haven’t attended a meeting, there will be a chance to sit down with our coordinator during the second half of the meeting. We are also available if you would like to arrange a presentation or Q&A about the opiate issue with your community group or agency.

In the meantime, we encourage you to contact at theleewardinitiative@gmail.com or call (231)-316-8567. Be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram.