Berkley partners with Families Against Narcotics for 2 addiction programs

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 23, 2021

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BERKLEY — The Berkley Public Safety Department and Families Against Narcotics will be partnering to bring two programs to the city to help people struggling with addiction.

The two programs brought on by the department’s partnership with FAN are Hope Not Handcuffs and the COMEBACK Quick Response Team. According to those involved, they hope to get the programs up and running by March 1.

For Hope Not Handcuffs, anyone struggling with addiction can come into a participating police department and ask for help without fear of being arrested.

“We will send an angel volunteer out to do the paperwork and connect them with treatment services, and that can be anyone struggling with any substance use disorder,” said Diane Engardio, program director of Hope Not Handcuffs. “It can be pain medication, it can be alcohol, it can be heroin. We don’t discriminate as long as it’s a substance use disorder.”

Public Safety Director Matt Koehn said that any interested individuals can come in and they’ll undergo a preliminary screening. After that, FAN will be contacted and an “angel” will be sent to the person to help with paperwork and provide support until a treatment option is found.

“Our first priority isn’t arrest because we know that really doesn’t help solve the problem,” Koehn said. “The idea is to get people the help they need, and in my career and even my personal life, I’ve interacted with a lot of people with addiction, and I know that sometimes they just need something to get them through the door to help themselves. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

The COMEBACK Quick Response Team is a group of three individuals who will respond to the site of an overdose within 72 hours after one has occurred to conduct a wellness check and to offer help. Those three persons will be an officer from Berkley, a peer coach and a family recovery coach.

Engardio said a peer coach is someone who has had long-term sobriety and has obtained a state certification to help others through their “lived experience of substance use disorder.” She added that a family recovery coach is someone who has been affected by a loved one’s substance use disorder.

“For example, someone who’s gone through it with their spouse or their child or their friend. So they also have lived experience because our families that are caught up in this, sometimes they’re as sick as the person with substance use disorder,” she said. “We become very dependent on their success and we get caught up in the chaos. I’ve been there myself. So the family needs support as well to learn how to get healthy and create a healthy environment.

“Our coaches work with the family members for three months and teach them how to set boundaries and things of that nature,” she continued. “We give them tools and resources. You know, understanding addiction, most families don’t really understand why this is happening, so we do a lot of education.”

While undergoing training with FAN, Koehn learned from FAN that people with alcohol addiction also can be helped, which he was happy to hear about.

“In Berkley, we definitely have addiction of controlled substances and prescription substances, but we do see a lot of people that need help with alcohol addiction,” he said. “I see reports every day with alcohol addiction where it’s led to family disputes or crime.”

Koehn said the two programs compliment each other well and that getting them off the ground in Berkley is something he’s wanted to do for a while.

“We definitely see a connection with addiction in people we deal with, both in family disturbances or medical runs, or some of the perpetrators of crimes, there’s a connection, and whatever we can do to help people with addiction and their families, we’re more than willing to do,” he said.

When they started the QRT program, Engardio said, they were unsure if individuals would be open to help, but so far the majority of people who do answer the door accept a conversation with them.

“If they don’t feel ready to go right into treatment, many of them accept a peer recovery coach. So that coach will work with that person for the next three months, and somewhere in that range, we hope that they will seek treatment in a recovery inpatient or outpatient treatment during that time, or we will connect the families to a coach, even if the person with substance use disorder doesn’t accept services,” she said. “Overall, it’s been a very successful program.”

Anyone looking to become an angel with FAN can learn more at www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org.

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