The Oakland County sheriff says there's an easy way to crack down on prescription drug abuse: require doctors to use a statewide, online database every time they write a prescription for serious painkillers.
Michigan already has an online system called MAPS, the Michigan Automated Prescription System.
But it’s voluntary.
Because there’s no law requiring doctors to use the database, law enforcement can’t always track which ones are acting like pill mills.
And of the many doctors who do use it, a lot of them enter prescriptions days or weeks after they actually write them for patients.
Sheriff Mike Bouchard says that makes it easy for pill shoppers.
"So that if they go immediately down to the hospital down the street, one wouldn't know the other one's already been there,” he says. "There's three hospitals right off of Woodward that they can buzz right up and down. They can hit all three in 25 minutes."
Using MAPS in the emergency room
Doctors are frustrated by this too.
Dr. Tressa Gardner runs the ER at McLaren Oakland Hospital.
She says she’ll enter a prescription into MAPS, but it takes a long time for it to actually show up in the system.
Still, she says the system is helping overall.
“In the emergency department, it can be a little time consuming [to use MAPS] at times, but you can see all the prescriptions a patient has, and then you can face the patient,” says Gardner. “I take them in the room and say, you just received 90 pills two weeks ago, you really should have these.”
As a state, Michigan has been glacially slow at responding to the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.
But there are signs that when law enforcement talks, the legislature listens.
Last year, the state passed a law allowing law enforcement to carry Narcan, a nasal spray that counteracts a drug overdose. It can literally save lives.
Sheriff Bouchard help lobby for this. And he says since it became legal in January, his deputies have already used Narcan to save nine lives.
“And so that's another indicator of how bad this is, that we've already, just us, have saved nine lives in the first half of this year."