News7 In Depth


'Our biggest drug problem': Police finding meth, fentanyl at alarming rates

Posted at 4:21 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 09:09:30-04

PORT HURON, Mich. (WXYZ) — According to the federal government, 275 people die every day from a drug overdose. Local authorities say they’re working relentlessly to clean the streets, finding alarming amounts of fentanyl and the return of meth.

Officials in St. Clair County say their drug task force is working in overtime, performing multiple drug raids a day and confiscating pounds of illegal drugs. But the pill and meth problems persist.

Last week, meth and crack cocaine were taken from a home near downtown Port Huron in the 1300 block of Military Street. About an hour later and just two minutes up the road, another drug bust happened with more meth and trouble makers. 

“I expect it to continue to be a busy summer,” St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King said.

He says in 48 hours, the drug task force performed four raids — eight in the past two weeks.  

“Right now, our biggest issue is methamphetamine. It’s been a problem for some years but over the last year, it’s become our biggest drug problem,” King said.

Brian McNeal with the Drug Enforcement Agency says people dying from drug overdoses is on the rise. One of the main contributors is fentanyl, a deadly powder that’s often added to other drugs or found in pill form. They continue to pop up across metro Detroit.

Earlier this week, Sterling Heights police confiscated 20,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop.

“We’re on pace for another over 100,000 or 104,000 overdose deaths, unfortunately,” McNeal said. 

King says much of the meth they seize is laced with fentanyl. His department now uses a lasered TruNarc machine to test before they touch.

There is another looming issue: “Drugs bring other crimes with it,” King said.
Most homes raided also had guns. King also says each drug house was its own operation, meaning multiple players are selling large amounts of meth, flooding the community and causing potential for competition and violence.

In the past two weeks, 13 bad players were arrested, but their impact on the community lingers.

"We definitely feel the weight of the increase in substance abuse and substance use,” said Jason Maracco, a clinical social worker with St. Clair County Community Mental Health.

Maracco says counselors are booked, with the department more than doubling the number of people seeking help to fight addiction.

“There’s been almost a 60 to 70 percent increase in the number of people receiving services since 2020,” said Debra Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the mental health center.

Johnson says they’ve hired close to 100 new employees to help support the growing need for addiction and mental health services in the area, and they still need more. But the staff says they are committed to guiding people in recover.

"There is help. They can get help and they can seek help," Johnson said.

Right now, Michigan is one of 23 states enrolled in Operation Overdrive, a program by the DEA using statistics to dismantle violence crimes.

If you or someone you know is battling with drug use, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national hotline 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

More information about St. Clair County Community Mental Health can be found on its website.