Experts in law enforcement and public health came together today to talk about the growing opioid crisis in West Michigan. The abuse epidemic was the main focus at a health forum, Friday, Feb. 2, at Grand Valley State University.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky, along with representatives from the State of Michigan, Spectrum Health and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services served as panelists for the event.

"As you know this is a nationwide problem with over 44,000 people dying every year. This affects all parts of our country," said Jean Nagelkerk, Vice Provost for Health at GVSU.

This was the second consecutive year GVSU hosted this type of forum. Nagelkerk says the goal is to "help the community to come up with strategies to fight the abuse problem."

It is a problem that caused 121 confirmed overdose deaths in Kent County last year. That was a 30 percent spike from the previous year, 2016. Experts say those numbers could continue to rise this year without major intervention.

"It touches everyone's walk of life. For those who do take any type opioid for prescription, 1 out of 4 end up getting addicted," said Nagelkerk.

She says many West Michigan communities are struggling with this issue, whether the people who live there acknowledge it or not.

"We are looking at what our community can do. What we are hoping is to raise community awareness," said Nagelkerk. "We have a problem. We need to bring awareness. We need to bring knowledge of what do you do? How do you help people? What are resources we can get to help these families?"

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