By CYNTHIA KMETT
It’s a sad, but true fact of life that Americans consume more opioids than the rest of the world combined, according to the Center for Disease Control. And it isn’t because we’re in more pain than the rest of the world. It’s because for a number of years there has been easy access to these drugs, which are not just addicting, but life destroying. Our jails are filled with folks who committed crimes to get the money for drugs.
As District 52-4 Judge Kirsten Nielsen Hartig observes knowingly, “Once you’re addicted to prescription drugs or heroin, you have to do it again, you have no choice. It’s no longer a choice.”
Judge Hartig, who oversees Drug Court in Troy, says that many addicts started with pain relievers for sports injuries, tooth pain, knee or hip surgery, muscle or back pain, or even the pains of old age. She adds that in many instances, girls are introduced to opioids by a boyfriend who just suggests she “try this, it’s not addictive.” There’s been a 40 percent increase in female addicts and that has led to 20,000 babies a year being born addicted to opioids.
A new program is aimed at helping those who want to kick the addiction. It’s called “Hope Not Handcuffs” and it is an initiative of Families Against Narcotics. The aim is to bring law enforcement and community agencies together to assist those seeking help in getting off heroin and prescription opioids.
The Troy Police Department recently joined other police departments in offering Hope Not Handcuffs in our community. Katie Donovan of Hope Not Handcuffs and Lt. Joshua Jones from the Troy Police Department presented a look at the “Hope Not Handcuffs” program at this week’s Troy Kiwanis Club meeting at Maggiano’s Italian Eatery.
“As a department, we are excited to be able to offer this resource to our community. It is a really great program that has already been doing great things and thank you for letting us be a part of it,” Lt. Jones said.
Here’s how it works. A person struggling with drug addiction can come to the police station at any time, day or night, any day of the year. They will be greeted by an officer, treated with respect, and not arrested. The officer will call an “angel,” who is a trained volunteer with the program and the angel will guide the person through a brief intake process to ensure proper treatment placement.
There are a few exceptions to acceptance in the Hope Not Handcuffs program. If you have a warrant out for a felony or for domestic violence, if you appear to be a danger to others, or if you’re under 18 and don’t have a parent’s permission to enter the program, you will be denied. And, some folks just need immediate hospitalization.
Deaths from opioids are “way up,” Lt. Jones points out. Opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, according to the CDC. They rose higher in 2017. Part of the increase is due to fentanyl deaths, which are up 549 percent in the past three years.
Hope Not Handcuffs is funded by both private and public donations and got a one-time grant from the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. Donations will be used to train community volunteers and police departments, purchase Angel Kits (comfort items such as blankets, snacks, and water for participants for each of the designated police agencies) and to provide transportation when necessary.
Hope Not Handcuffs is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your contribution is deductible to the full extent of the law. You can mail a donation payable to Hope Not Handcuffs, c/o Families Against Narcotics, Fraser Public Safety, 33000 Garfield Road, Fraser, MI 48026. Learn more at familiesagainstnarcotics.org.