2017-03-12 / Insight

Opiate abuse, addiction can be addressed with information and action

810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

Working the Families Against Narcotics booth at a benefit concert last summer at Torzweski County Park were Mike and Michele Grappin of Metamora. Working the Families Against Narcotics booth at a benefit concert last summer at Torzweski County Park were Mike and Michele Grappin of Metamora. LAPEER COUNTY — There’s been reluctance by some people to believe opiate abuse is a problem in Lapeer County. That’s understandable, because it’s an uncomfortable issue that may hit home for households and individuals who would rather not talk about it. It’s personal or embarrassing — but it’s also claiming lives and devastating families and can’t be ignored any longer.

In 2011 a handful of Lapeer-area parents formed FAN — Families Against Narcotics — a group devoted to fighting opioid addiction and The County Press began chronicling the group’s activities.

“I used to feel sorry for you,” said Tina Dinnan, one of FAN’s founding members. “People kept writing in asking, ‘Why are you writing about this?’” But, Dinnan said, she and other FAN members have appreciated the coverage of the opiate and heroin abuse problem that has reached an epidemic level in the community — just as it is across the country in rural America and big cities alike.

Dinnan, whose son died of a drug overdose, and others involved in the fight against opiate addiction knew people were in denial when she became involved in FAN. That’s precisely the reason she wanted to make a difference and shed light on the problem in Lapeer County.

According to a 2014 report by state Dept. of Community Health, Lapeer was one of eight counties in the state to exceed the state average of 13 deaths per 100,000 people. Peggy Patten, FAN’s president, said bringing the issue to light helped get people to start talking about it. She said there’s now “a greater understanding that (drug addiction) is an incurable disease that can be managed. Her son is a recovering heroin addict.

Dinnan said there were eight people at FAN’s first meeting in December 2011, but now they average 10 to 20 and sometimes as many as 40. “Absolutely I think things are getting better. We’re more organized,” she said. Dinnan said about half the new people she sees read about FAN in the newspaper and about half were referred by a police officer.

They all have one thing in common, Patten said, “They are all families in crisis.” FAN, Patten said, doesn’t “have a magic pill, we don’t have a magic answer, but where there’s life there’s hope.”

Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. Undersheriff Jeremy Howe said Sheriff Scott McKenna plans to begin doing a lot of school presentations, especially with athletes in the fall. He noted sport injuries seem to be a significant gateway to opiate abuse.

The sheriff has been talking with Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham about programs Macomb runs that focus on treatment rather than incarceration.

“We want to be the place people come to when they say ‘I’m ready to come in. I’m done.’ We want to be a resource for treatment with no strings attached,” Howe said. However, adapting Macomb’s programs to Lapeer County’s smaller population is going to take some time.

In the meantime, though, Howe said Sheriff McKenna is “always willing to go anywhere to meet with any group.”

Attention to the opiate epidemic, Patten said, has “definitely raised awareness.”

The County Press has published numerous editorials to address the drug overdose crisis and drug abuse problem in our community, to bring greater attention to the problem but also to identify where and how addicts can find help before it’s too late.

Admittance that there’s a problem is the first step to a solution. Through education and dissemination of information The County Press is committed to continue to tell the story of addiction, its consequences on users and their families and on the community at large.

But there is hope, just as there are a lot of people and organizations working every day in Lapeer County to make a difference against opiate addiction.

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