In 2017, the opioid addiction crisis was worsening in Genesee County, Michigan. But as painkiller prescriptions and overdoses were increasing, so was the number of people seeking an escape from their habits –- and the community of first responders, case workers, counselors, and relatives attempting to help them.
While waiting to see a doctor, Brian West extends two fingers to illustrate the length of his first line of cocaine. "I made a decision to do a line that big; I felt like superman,” said West, who had struggled with addiction to various street drugs, including heroin, for 14 years. "It eventually snowballed." He speculated that he began getting high to cope with an undiagnosed case of depression.
Administrators meet before a session of the Genesee County Adult Felony Drug Court, which offers non-violent drug offenders treatment instead of incarceration. In November, 2017, a White House commission called for the creation of a national network of drug courts to combat the U.S. opioid addiction crisis.
Cody Hatfield, 26, cries while graduating from drug court. The court "has given me what I have today – getting a job, confidence, getting my life back, my family back," he said. "I worked hard. It took a lot of pain."
David Witkop, 26, works in Tuffy Auto Service Center in Fenton, Michigan. After using heroin, cocaine and other drugs for more than a decade, he had been sober for nearly a year.
A 28-year-old woman is carried to an ambulance in Flint, Michigan, after overdosing on opioids.
Scott Daup, left, a drug court participant, meets with his probation officer, Chris Horne.
Bruce and Patsy Williams in their home in Flushing, Michigan. Their son, Zachary, had died one year from an overdose on the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
David Witkop straps on a leg brace in his room before work. A severe overdose damaged his ability to walk and drove him toward sobriety. "I realized that something had to change," he said. "I was killing myself."
Brian West checks into his room in a rehabilitation facility in Flint, Michigan, after using for 14 years. "I'm 54 years old and I have to start all over," he said.
Men pray at a Salvation Army treatment center in Flint, Michigan.