Recovering addict Kyle Bond gives a hug to angel coordinator Lisa Cattaneo-Boska, from Families Against Narcotics.

Recovering addict Kyle Bond gives a hug to angel coordinator Lisa Cattaneo-Boska, from Families Against Narcotics.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Program helps more than 900 addicts in one year

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published February 13, 2018

 Families Against Narcotics member Diane Engardio talks about why she loves the program.

Families Against Narcotics member Diane Engardio talks about why she loves the program.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB COUNTY — When the Hope Not Handcuffs program was officially launched Jan. 31, 2017, there was skepticism in the public and even by some law enforcement officials around Macomb County.

The program, which utilizes local, county and state police resources, as well as substance abuse centers near and far, was created to allow addicts and substance abusers a safe haven to receive the help and assistance required to gain a new lease on life.

Rather than walk into a police station and be arrested and perhaps incarcerated for breaking laws, these individuals receive help from officers who for years were skeptical about whether addicts could change their ways.

On Feb. 1, at Christ Church Fraser, a group of recovering addicts and angels  — those who help addicts with insurance and medical information and help find them substance abuse clinics — joined members from Families Against Narcotics, or FAN, by reviewing the statistics from the program’s first year.

FAN’s executive board includes 41-B District Court Judge Linda Davis and Executive Vice President Katie Donovan. Donovan, who was not present Feb. 1, said on Facebook prior to the program’s beginning, “Kids are dying and dammit, we’re not waiting around for anyone to solve this.”

A year-in-review video opened the evening, describing how the idea originated in 2015 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In the video, the angels discuss why they help others, making numerous runs back and forth between perilous situations and hospital bedsides. One angel sat with an addict for five hours to assure that care was available.

Some angels do what they do because they were addicts themselves. Others lost their children due to addiction. And others just want to make the world a better place.

In terms of who has been helped, the numbers are staggering. By July 2017, 372 addicts had received help, with that number climbing to 504 in September, and 788 in December. By Feb. 1, the number had risen to 903 people.

FAN advisory board member Diane Engardio stated, “This program is really the one that makes me happy.”

Macomb County Commissioner Bob Smith was on hand to present, on behalf of the entire Board of Commissioners, a proclamation thanking FAN, the angels, the law enforcement entities and everyone who has made the program meet and exceed expectations.

That includes people like Lisa Cattaneo-Boska, who coordinates with angels to help them reach out to addicts. She received more hugs than could be counted that night.

“What a proud day for our county,” Smith said. “We didn’t realize it then, but we realize it now.”

Eastpointe Deputy Police Chief Eric Keiser spoke about police units having to change their mindsets in regard to the program. He said addiction leads to crimes like domestic violence, retail fraud and larceny from automobiles. There were cynics.

“Then, the first (addict) walked in and asked for help,” Keiser said. “It went just as planned.”

That addict, he recalled, was treated with dignity and respect. Help was called, and it’s been a trend that police higher-ups have found beneficial, albeit surprising.

“If we can help prevent (crimes) by getting treatment, then we’re all for it,” he said.

Recovering addict Kyle Bond has particularly benefited from Hope Not Handcuffs. His life now doesn’t compare to what it used to be.

“Every day, I remember the pain,” Bond told the crowded room. “I remember the despair and the frustration and the confusion. Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep hurting my family? Why do I keep hurting myself? Why can’t I just get this right? And it broke my heart every day.”

He said he felt empty inside, like he was missing something. He traveled to South Carolina, and south Florida, and West Virginia, trying to fill that emptiness.

“It hit me that I was running from myself,” he said. “I was running from the truth that I’m an addict, and that is OK.”

One day he had enough. He walked into the Clinton Township Police Department, spoke to an officer, and his life was on the verge of being back on track. For the first time, there was optimism.

“I can smile. I look forward to tomorrow,” Bond said. “I’m enjoying the moments I’m having right now, the relationships that I’m building and the trust that I’m regaining, and the bridges that I’m building.

“God, it’s just inspiring. It’s just beautiful — nothing short of a miracle.”

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