(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 31, 2017)
Holly, MI – Holly Police Chief Michael Story is ready to take a compassionate approach to helping people detox and get help with addiction. The Village of Holly is the third community in Oakland County to join Hope Not Handcuffs. Through this program anyone can walk into participating police departments, even if they are under the influence or detoxing, and request help with their addiction.
The program was created by FANS (Families Against Narcotics), who launched it in February 1 in Macomb County, plus the Cities of Ferndale and Oak Park through the Michigan State Police Oak Park Post (not Oak Park Public Safety). Since that time 216 individuals have gone to their local police and been voluntarily placed in treatment, at least 30 of whom were from Ferndale.
A press conference was held Wednesday in Flint to announce the program’s expansion into Genesee County and Lapeer County plus Holly.
Although located in Oakland County, Holly opted to join in partnership with nearby Grand Blanc. “It makes sense because we are closer to Grand Blanc than to cities in Oakland County, and they have the program set up and ready to go,” Chief Story said. “This problem is huge in scope and growing. It makes sense to get involved now.”
Once a person comes into the station, police contact the “Angel Coordinator” for the group. The police also have an “Angel box” that has comfort items to hold over the person until their “Angel” can arrive, including a blanket, bottled water, and granola bars to give them some comfort as they wait. Police do an assessment and the Angel helps get them into a recovery program, immediately if possible.
Randi Novak, Vice President of FAN, said “The window of opportunity is short. If we don’t get them help when they ask, we may lose them again… We want to do all we can to make people feel welcome. Even without a problem I can feel intimidated walking into a police station. But for someone who is detoxing or ready to make a change, this is scary, and it’s painful. And they might not go through with it if they don’t feel comfortable.”
The program is unique because it provides a kind, voluntary, connection to help. And there is follow up support. “I have six people in recovery now, and I text them all every morning. Three don’t respond, but they get a text every day anyway so they know they have someone.”
Novak carries a small bit of ashes in her purse. Her 21-year-old son has gone into rehab three times. “The first two times I know he was doing it for me,” she said. “The third time he overdosed. He essentially died and the Narcan saved his life. But when I saw him in the hospital it was like looking at a dead person…Now he is getting the help he needs.”
The ashes are from another young man, her son’s best friend who did not make it. “Tyler is the one who introduced my son to heroin. I keep him with me and when I need a reminder to keep going. When it’s hard I reach in my purse and I feel him there, and I say ‘okay Tyler, let’s do this.’ I don’t blame him for what happened to my son. My son is a good boy that I love very much. Tyler is another mother’s good boy. There is a whole generation that is dying. This whole generation is going to be missed. They are missed now, but we’re going to see it later on too, when grandkids are taking care of grandparents, when there aren’t enough people to fill jobs. It’s a whole generation broken.”
Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna serves on the board of Lapeer County FANs. “It’s heartbreaking to walk through the jail in the morning to see people in our cells detoxing. We give them medical care, but it’s still horrible,” he said. “With opiates, this not a biased drug. This is impacting everyone. There are doctors, hair dressers, people that work at Kroger that have met with this…Why shouldn’t we do all we can? ”
Judge Mark W. Latchana of Burton is a proponent of the program. “I deal with it often…People come to court. They’ve been arrested and more often than not they’re not ready for treatment…When they come to us, that’s much more effective than the drug court program…They’re people ready to make the change on their own,” he said.
“When I made a post on Facebook about my son, I had 233 people message me with their own stories. And I’m not a famous person or anybody that’s well connected. I’m just a mom. But people don’t realize how bad this problem is,” Novak said. “I’m very grateful for all the resources that are helping my son, and we’re going to keep doing more.”
For the 216 people who have already gotten help, Hope Not Handcuffs has been a lifesaver. “The beauty of this program is community, when a community comes together, says ‘we’ve got you, we’re reaching out our hands, just take it.’” In Genessee County there are 70 volunteer Angels, and in Lapeer there are 30 so far.
Holly Councilperson Dave Cruickshank has been an advocate for this program, even going to Ferndale for an informational meeting about it. “As soon as I saw this program being implemented elsewhere, I knew Holly needed to be involved,” he said. “Since the prescription drug change took place in 2014, we and many other municipalities have seen a pretty substantial rise in drug use, heroin in particular. My personal belief is that locking up people for non-violent drug use is a waste of money, and does not help those who are genuinely trying to get clean.
‘When I brought this program to Chief Story’s attention, he jumped in with both feet along with the rest of the department. I couldn’t be more excited to get this program off the ground. This will literally save lives and have the most positive impact on the community. Most individuals who want to get clean don’t know how or where to take that first step. This is program couldn’t make that any easier and also shows that our police care about you getting help rather than getting another arrest.”
To learn more about the program and find participating locations, go to www.hopenothandcuffs.com.
Note: This article has been updated to clarify that Oak Park residents can participate through the Michigan State Police post in Oak Park.