MI getting federal grants to fight opioid epidemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the way only a mother can, Theresa Adkison is still grieving for her son.

“To lose my child, that’s a pain I’ve never known,” she said.

On Jan. 8, 2018, Adkison said her son, Derek Kardos, was found outside in a park in Philadelphia. It was 16 degrees. He was clinging to life but couldn’t be resuscitated.

derek kardos
An undated courtesy photo of Derek Kardos.

“He definitely had enough fentanyl in his system to kill him,” Adkison said.

After 17 years of addiction, his battle with drugs was too overwhelming. Kardos died at age 32.

Now, federal organizations are widening their efforts to help users like her son. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to award the Michigan Department of Health and Human services more than $7 million to track overdose deaths.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Kent County epidemiologist Rachel Jantz said.

She said having that data can put a big dent in the opioid epidemic.

“When we’re talking about the opioid epidemic, we’re talking about deaths, yes, but we are also talking about nonfatal opioid overdoses that don’t arrive to the ER departments,” Jantz said. “We’re also talking about the number of naloxone (used with delivery system Narcan) administrations.”

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is granting the state nearly $28 million to support prevention and treatment plans.

“With the Kent County Opioid Task Force in place, we are able to communicate about what initiatives are already going on and how can we use this funding to enhance what’s already going on,” Jantz said.

For moms like Adkison, the focus isn’t on how their child got addicted but rather how users can get help.

“I don’t want him to just be a statistic,” she said. “I want to help people like him.”

In Kent County, medical processionals saw a 36 percent decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018. Much of that is attributed to the distribution of naloxone.

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