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‘Hope Not Handcuffs’ coming to Marine City
Pamela Binsfeld — The Voice The Hope Not Handcuffs program was discussed during the Marine City Commission meeting June 1.

The Hope Not Handcuffs addiction recovery program is moving forward in Marine City.

The Marine City Police Department is on board with the program, and Howard Colby, co-founder of Blue Water Area Families Against Narcotics, is working to create partnerships with Region 10, an organization that promotes opportunities for recovery and EMS, Commissioner Lisa Hendrick said during the commission’s June 1 meeting.

“I spoke to our chief and assured him this wouldn’t be a big drain on the department,” said Hendrick. “He is fully supporting the program.”

Marine City Police Chief Jim Heaslip affirmed Hendrick’s statement.

Once all the key players are in place, another meeting will be organized to lock in the “angels” or volunteers of the program who accompany the individual while waiting for transportation to a treatment facility. A list of potential “angels” was organized during the public forum meeting May 10, where Katie Donovan, executive director of Families Against Narcotics and co-founder of Hope Not Handcuffs, told her story and offered advice on how to implement a program in the city.

“We’re making good progress, but we still have a way to go,” said Hendrick. “We are the starting point for St. Clair County.”

Blue Water Area Families Against Narcotics was founded in response to the overwhelming number of lives affected by prescription drug abuse, heroin and methamphetamine in St. Clair County.

Colby offered the Blue Water Area FAN’s assistance in launching the program not only in Marine City, but all of St. Clair County. The group’s advisory board comprises Port Huron Chief of Police Michael Reaves, St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling,District Judge Honorable Cindy Platzer, St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donellon and St. Clair County Commissioner Tom Riley.

Hope Not Handcuffs was explored as an additional way to break the stigma of addiction and help those who seek recovery after a string of fatal overdoses in Marine City occurred in recent months.

In neighboring Macomb County, the Hope Not Handcuffs program kicked off Feb. 1 as a collaborative effort among FAN, Macomb County police departments, emergency medical service providers and other organizations. If a person comes to a designated police department seeking help, a team will work to get them into treatment as soon as possible. Police will contact the cooperating ambulance companies and one of 250 “angels.” They can also receive help by filing out an assessment form on the organization’s website.

“Our view of a success was if one person came in,” Donovan said. “We’ve helped 179 so far. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

All 21 law enforcement agencies in Macomb County are participating, including the sheriff’s office and police departments in Chesterfield Township, New Baltimore, Armada and Richmond.

Volunteers step in after the initial phone call is made, Hendrick noted. Angels arrive at the police departments within 12 to 15 minutes and will place someone into treatment within two hours. Once the patient is finished with treatment, a grant for after care, out-patient therapy or sober living grant is provided, along with a peer recovery coach. The program is funded by grants, the local prepaid inpatient health plan and insurance.

Areas in which the program has been implemented have seen up to a 25 percent reduction in crime associated with addiction, Donovan said.

Opioids are the main driver of drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The class of drugs that includes heroin and pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine is reported to have been involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, with overdoses quadrupling since 1999.

“It can be your next-door neighbor or the mom driving to CVS to pick up her next prescription of Xanax because she went through her 30-day supply in 10 days,” said Donovan during the forum.

Michigan saw a jump in drug overdose death rates between 2014 and 2015, along with more than a dozen other states, the CDC’s website states.

“The success of the program is really based on the passion of the community and the partnership that you can create,” said Donovan during the forum.

The only available detox facility in the area is Sacred Heart in Memphis.

The St. Clair County Health Department also offers programs, including the Second Chance Naloxone Program, a confidential Naloxone training and rescue kit distribution program for individuals at risk of opioid overdose or those who have contact with those at risk of opioid overdose. Naloxone is a medication that when administered can help prevent death to an individual who is overdosing on opioids. Other components of the program include substance abuse recovery resources and community training options.

Pamela Binsfeld is a staff writer for The Voice. She can be contacted at 586-273-6197 or