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Hazel Park

June 6, 2013

DROP provides support for those facing addiction

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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DROP provides support for those facing addiction
Amy Strick stands by the door to Drug Reporting and Outreach Program, or DROP, her Hazel Park-based business providing support services to those struggling with substance abuse and other issues.

HAZEL PARK — Amy Strick has seen good people swallowed whole by addiction. Her own father was one such person. Warm and generous, he was a man of great talent. But alcoholism cost him his life.

The second of three children, Strick grew up with a father who was absent most of her life due to drinking. When she was attending Hazel Park High, Class of 1993, he’d be gone for days at a time, coming home at unpredictable hours, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Strick and her sisters were often teased for their father’s habits.

“One time, some guys put firecrackers in our mailbox. My dad ran out to yell at them, and as he was running out, he was so drunk he fell down the stairs and hit the cement. Everyone was standing around laughing at him. I ran inside and cried,” Strick said. “The next day, there were people around my locker at school, teasing me about it. As teens, they thought it was cool I had a dad who was obliterated. But I didn’t.”

Her father’s absence meant her older sister had to watch out for Strick and their youngest sister while mom was out making ends meet.

“My mom literally worked three jobs herself to make sure she put food on the table, and that we had homecoming dressings, and so on, but she always stressed education, education, education,” Strick said. “She wasn’t a drinker, so we had one stable parent, even though she was absent in a different way. As we grew older, we realized the reason for her absence was to better the family.”

Strick’s mother is Hazel Park Mayor Pro Tem Jan Parisi.

“Statistically speaking, we three children could’ve turned out addicts ourselves, but we didn’t. Our mom missed out on some things with us, but she did what she could and we never went without,” Strick said. “When my dad didn’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner, dinner showed up on our table anyways. My mom never missed a beat. And she was very involved in the community, maybe to keep her mind off what was happening with my dad.”

In time, the hardship the father’s alcoholism put on the family grew to be too much. When he disappeared to the U.P. and wound up in rehab at a county-run hospital, his legs swollen and liver failing, Parisi divorced him. She did it for the sake of her children, Strick said.

“He never remarried — my mom was his one true love,” Strick said. “And he understood why she went through with the divorce, because it was a strain on the family, financially. We lost a home to his gambling; my mom had to work triple shifts as a waitress to make up for the things lost.”

But Strick, now a Madison Heights resident, says her father wasn’t a horrible person. Strick often enjoyed his company, accompanying him on fishing trips. She said he was a very private person, very neat, but he wasn’t stingy with money — “He’d give you his bottom dollar,” Strick said — and he was well-liked by all around him.

“He was that personality anyone could get along with,” Strick said. “If he was drinking and ticked off, it was a different story, but he never laid a hand on us.”

Strick’s father was also a man of great potential. He played baseball in local leagues and was often told he could go pro. But her father’s father — a Hazel Park police lieutenant and military man — told him baseball wasn’t a career.

As such, he attended the police academy until he was drafted for the Vietnam War. Then the war ended, and he didn’t go back to school. Strick says her father’s inability to stand up to her grandfather is probably what led him to the bottle — his coping mechanism.

He passed away at age 60 last January, a frail shell of himself. His death certificate listed the cause as “35 to 45 years of alcohol abuse.”

Seeing what her father went through, and knowing there was a good person inside, Strick decided to dedicate herself to helping people overcome drug and alcohol abuse. She runs her own business, Drug Reporting and Outreach Program, or DROP, located at 21615 John R in Hazel Park.

Originally a drug-screening clinic for the court system, DROP has since grown to offer a wide variety of services, including intensive outpatient services aimed at those struggling with addiction, relapse prevention, drug and alcohol education, anger management, juvenile diversion, decision-making and guidance counseling, and more.

It’s largely a one-woman operation, with Strick, who holds a psychology degree, working full-time, assisted by unpaid interns working toward their own degrees.

The plan is to achieve 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. In the meantime, Strick funds it all out-of-pocket, with help from her husband, Hazel Park Police K-9 Officer Brian Strick. She said her patients can’t point a finger and say she’s working for the legal system, since her business is a separate entity altogether.

“Last year, I didn’t make a dime,” she said. “It all went right back into the business.”

Strick has seen her share of addicts, including heroin users, an addiction that is often the result of painkiller prescriptions. When a painkiller habit becomes too pricey to maintain, addicts may turn to the cheaper heroin alternative.

Stacey McCombs, of Warren, was one such person. Her addiction to heroin began with a Vicodin prescription for pain relief while recovering from dental work. She turned to heroin a year ago, after five years hooked on Vicodin. At one point, she was in rehab for heroin, and she relapsed. Child Protective Services nearly claimed her daughter and son.

“I got very lucky,” McCombs said. “It was my wake-up call because I very well could’ve lost my kids. I went to my probation officer, myself, and told him what had happened, and he told me about Amy (Strick) at DROP, and her one-on-one counseling.”

Now McCombs is at the DROP clinic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for drug-testing and hour-long sessions about staying sober.

“I don’t see people as being able to stay sober without support. Support is the No. 1 thing in sobriety, and they have a great support system at DROP,” McCombs said. “I’m sober now and I’m with my kids. I’m starting to be closer with my family, and I can take care of myself more. I feel it’s going great right now. I feel amazing.”

Drug Reporting and Outreach Program (DROP), 21615 John R in Hazel Park, can be reached by calling (248) 824-3533.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.