Township opts for Hope Not Handcuffs in face of opioid epidemic

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 29, 2018

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Joining dozens of other communities, the Bloomfield Township is Police Department has adopted the Families Against Narcotics’ popular Hope Not Handcuffs initiative.

Under the new program, individuals with substance abuse and addiction problems can go to the Bloomfield Township Police Department to get help in starting the recovery process, without worry of being detained for using drugs.

According to Sgt. Bryan Pizzuti, who oversees the program for the department along with Officer Kelly Marthen, they are participating in Hope Not Handcuffs to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and residents.

“We want to reinforce those community ties and show that (the Police Department) is a place of caring. We understand this is a huge epidemic, and we’re not immune to it in Bloomfield Township or Oakland County,” Pizzuti said.

Hope Not Handcuffs is completely volunteer operated and donation funded, according to Katie Donovan, executive vice president of FAN and the cofounder of Hope Not Handcuffs.

The process begins when someone in need of recovery assistance asks for help at a participating law enforcement agency. Officers will contact a volunteer from the program, called angels, who will come to the station and assist with making phone calls, filling out paperwork and securing transportation, as well as offering general support and conversation.

“Basically, the role of an angel is to navigate the system to find that person a bed in treatment,” Donovan said. “All it really takes is a passion to help and time.”

Donovan praised the department for its participation, acknowledging that relieving the opioid epidemic nationwide will take help from all sectors of the community.

“The easiest way to get involved is to volunteer as an angel. We have some brief training that’s involved, about 2 1/2 hours to get the protocol and procedures, and then it’s just about walking them through the paperwork, making simple phone calls and getting them into treatment,” Donovan said.

Hope Not Handcuffs also takes donations of Uber gift cards to help transport people seeking treatment to a rehabilitation facility, along with donations of men’s and women’s clothing and toiletries.

“Sometimes, people will walk into a police department looking for help and they’ve lost absolutely everything by that point. They come in with just the clothes on their back. We want to see them get everything they need for their best opportunity for recovery,” she explained.

Donovan added that Hope Not Handcuffs is also looking to keep people clean and sober beyond treatment through necessities like employment, which can be hard to find.

“We’d love to hear from employers interested in hiring people in early recovery,” she said. “That’s one of the obstacles for those coming out of treatment. It can be an obstacle just to event get an interview.”

The best case scenario, Pizzuti said, is to get people the help they need before officers respond to the sad situation of a drug overdose.

“A lot of people are afraid to come to the Police Department because they’re afraid they might be charged. But we just can’t — not when there’s a national epidemic like this,” he said.

Donovan agreed and said she got involved with FAN because, like so many others, she had a loved one who struggled with substance abuse. It doesn’t matter how it started — just how it ends.

“In times of crisis we can do two things: blame and shame, and point fingers; or, we can come together in unity to focus on a solution,” she said.

To volunteer as an angel or to learn more, visit FamiliesAgainstNarcotics.org.

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