The Other Epidemic
Fri, 02/19/2021 - 11:16am caleb
City police and Sheriff’s Department to work with local Families Against Narcotics chapter to offer help for people seeking substance abuse treatment
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Opioid addiction – involving both prescription medication and street drugs such as heroin – has often been referred to as an epidemic in the United States during the last several years. Local law enforcement officials say drug misuse – especially with regard to methamphetamine and opioids – and its resulting issues are currently among the biggest challenges for their departments, and they’re trying to find solutions other than jail for people battling substance use problems.
Officials from the City of Grayling Police Department and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said they are working with Families Against Narcotics to bring the Hope Not Handcuffs program to Crawford County.
“Hope Not Handcuffs is an initiative started by Families Against Narcotics aimed at bringing law enforcement and community organizations together in an effort to find viable treatment options for individuals seeking help to reduce dependency with heroin, prescription drugs, and alcohol,” according to Families Against Narcotics.
The program encourages people with substance misuse issues to visit local police departments so authorities can guide them through an assistance process for recovery.
“A person struggling with any substance use disorder can come to any of the participating police agencies and ask for help. They will be greeted with support, compassion, and respect. If accepted into the program, the individual will be guided through a brief intake process to ensure proper treatment placement,” according to Families Against Narcotics.
(Circumstances that could make a person ineligible for the program, according to Families Against Narcotics, include: “a felony or domestic violence warrant; danger to others; medical condition that may need hospitalization.”)
Amanda Clough, City of Grayling Deputy Police Chief, said the intention of the Hope Not Handcuffs program is “to bring law enforcement and community organizations together to provide treatment options for those seeking help for addictions.”
“Hope Not Handcuffs is an excellent program that gives those with addictions another step in the process of getting help,” said Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs. “We want our citizens to know that they can come here, and we will get them in contact with an ‘angel’ that will get the process started. We pledge to treat those asking for help with their addictions with respect and compassion while supporting their effort to beat their dependency.”
Police officials and Families Against Narcotics are currently seeking volunteers to serve as “angels” – people who can help with the assistance process – for the Hope Not Handcuffs program.
“In order to make this work we will need volunteer angels to help assist in getting those seeking treatment connected with the appropriate resources,” said Deputy Chief Clough.
Volunteers do have to complete a training process. According to Families Against Narcotics, online training sessions are slated for February 27, March 2, March 16, March 22, and March 27. If you are interested in volunteering to help with the program, visit the www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/hopenothandcuffs-angel website or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The website has online registration links for the virtual training sessions.
“More than 185 people die from drug overdoses every day in the United States. That’s almost eight people every hour. Faces of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones, all gone much too soon. Overdoses are this country’s leading cause of injury-related death, which is why Families Against Narcotics works tirelessly to help individuals and families affected by addiction. FAN strives to educate our communities about the dangers of prescription and illicit drugs, assist those who are struggling with addiction get into treatment, and support both individuals and their families on their journey to recovery and healing,” according to www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org. “With more than 20 chapters throughout Michigan, FAN’s mission is to save lives and erase the stigma associated with addiction.”
Lynda Rutkowski, of Up North Prevention and Families Against Narcotics, said she hopes the Crawford County Hope Not Handcuffs program will be available soon, but it will depend on the number of angel volunteers and how quickly they’re able to complete the training process. Rutkowski said the Crawford County chapter of Families Against Narcotics started forming about a year ago during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, and it now has a board in place. Rutkowski said the Crawford County process in establishing the program is “unique” because it is forming its new Families Against Narcotics chapter and instituting the Hope Not Handcuffs program “at the same time.”
Rutkowski said providing education about “substance abuse disorders” and “trying to remove the stigma” associated with them are a couple of the services offered by Families Against Narcotics. She said the “stigma” and “shame” can cause people with a substance misuse issue “to try to hide it or not seek treatment or not even talk about it,” which prevents them from getting assistance.
Rutkowski said Hope Not Handcuffs allows people with substance use disorders involving alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs to stop by one of the local participating police departments for help. The department contacts one of the volunteer “angels” and – after a “quick intake” process – the volunteer can arrange for the person to be transported to an appropriate recovery site, Rutkowski said.
In addition to Hope Not Handcuffs, Families Against Narcotics is also looking to start a monthly series of public forums during which speakers talk about a variety of issues related to substance misuse, according to Rutkowski.
“These are really valuable meetings to educate the community and reduce the stigma with that education,” Rutkowski said. “It’s not a moral failing. That’s one of the things we’re trying to get people to realize. It’s not a moral failing, it’s a disease.”
Rutkowski said the forums may be online at first depending on state regulations regarding gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opioid addiction can involve prescription pain killers or street drugs like heroin, and sometimes one leads to the other.
Undersheriff Ryan Swope said law enforcement is “finally catching up” to some of the opioid issues but it’s still a serious problem, especially with drug makers adding fentanyl – “a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent,” according to www.drugabuse.gov – to their products.
Undersheriff Swope said people who are addicted to prescription painkillers and no longer able to get them prescribed sometimes turn “to heroin to feed their addiction,” and that – combined with the more widespread use of fentanyl in drug production – can lead to an increase in overdoses.
Undersheriff Swope said officers are now carrying NARCAN – a nasal spray form of naloxone that is “FDA approved for the treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose,” according to www.narcan.com – and they’ve “had several saves” by using it on people who have overdosed.
Undersheriff Swope said more people – users and their families and friends – are getting NARCAN from area pharmacies in order to help reduce overdose deaths, and he said “jail inmates being released can request one.” Swope said the Sheriff’s Department “handled approximately 27 overdose complaints in 2020.”
Deputy Chief Clough said city officers have been seeing fewer overdoses recently because of the wider availability of NARCAN and drug use trends shifting from opioids to methamphetamine in the community. Clough said people using NARCAN to treat a friend or family member’s overdose may go unreported, reducing the number of overdoses to which police respond, and she said officers are not seeing a lot of overdoses associated with methamphetamine.
Undersheriff Swope said methamphetamine presence in the county is one of the department’s biggest challenges right now, and meth-related arrests are constant.
“Methamphetamine is through the roof for us,” Undersheriff Swope said. “It’s everywhere. People you wouldn’t suspect to be using are using it. It’s pretty frightening to see how much there is. I feel methamphetamine is our biggest issue when it comes to drugs, currently.”
Undersheriff Swope said meth causes people to stay awake for long periods of time and can cause hallucinations, making it difficult for first responders to deal with users.
Officers from both the City of Grayling Police Department and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department have to respond to a variety of complaints that involve use of methamphetamine or other drugs, including thefts, domestic violence, and traffic violations.
“The drug problem is the root cause of a lot of our complaints,” Deputy Chief Clough said.
“It affects the behavior of the person who may do things they may not usually have done,” Rutkowski said. “It becomes more than just a disease of the body for that person. There are a lot of residual problems when a person is a chronic user of drugs or alcohol.”
Rutkowski said drugs tend to “cycle,” that when one is reduced another “takes over,” and right now, methamphetamine appears to be the most prevalent in the area.
“Meth is a big problem. It’s a difficult drug to overcome, but a person can get into recovery from meth,” Rutkowski said.