Opioid crisis town hall meeting in Harper Woods rescheduled

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published December 8, 2017

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HARPER WOODS — The town hall meeting to discuss the opioid crisis that was canceled Sept. 27 has been rescheduled.

The meeting will now take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17, in the Harper Woods High School auditorium. Members of the community called for action to be taken after several overdoses, including at least 11 fatal cases at that point, were reported.

The meeting was organized by Harper Woods City Councilwoman Valerie Kindle. She wants to ensure that people are getting the right information to both prevent and react to substance abuse.

“It is necessary because there is a certain amount of ignorance, for lack of a better word, and people don’t understand how people are becoming hooked,” she said. “It can start with something as simple as being prescribed some painkillers after a sports injury. That can cause you to deviate down the path of addiction. If people are informed, we can fight back against what is an epidemic.”

The meeting will be led by a panel including representatives from Beaumont Hospital, Wayne County Mental Health, Families Against Narcotics, and Community Assessment Referral and Education of Southeast Michigan. Judge Daniel Palmer, of the 32-A District Court, and Harper Woods Public Safety Chief Jim Burke will both be involved as well.

“It’s basically going to be a community forum put on by Families Against Narcotics and CARE of Southeast Michigan,” explained Palmer. “We want to provide information related to opioid abuse that we see a lot in the media. We’ve unfortunately had deaths in the community of drug overdoses, so providing information about the problems will hopefully lead to solutions.”

As of Dec. 6, the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety reported that it has responded to 50 overdoses in the city, 20 of which have been fatal. The town hall meeting will discuss why so many communities across the country like Harper Woods have numbers that high and how residents can help bring the numbers down.

“It will be a panel discussion and will be open to questions and answers,” said Kindle. “We want people to walk away with their specific questions answered, and they can feel like they got something out of it. A panel member will bring up a topic, and then we will open up the topic for public discussion. We’re not sure which specific topics will be brought up. There will be a variety of information about where you can get help, how addiction can start, and warning signs of addiction in people you know.”

Palmer also wants to see if there is enough community interest to start a local chapter of Families Against Narcotics to better fight drug abuse in the Harper Woods community.

“We also want to gauge interest in forming a local chapter of FAN. We need to see if there is enough people interested to construct an executive board, and enough people willing to volunteer for such efforts. A representative from FAN will be at the meeting to share what exactly that would entail and what having a local chapter would provide.”

Both Kindle and Palmer stressed that opioid addiction crosses all borders, economic classes and ethnicities. The scope of the problem cannot be understated.

“I see this problem every day in court with people using heroin and were brought back thanks to Narcan, driving under the influence of drugs, or were arrested for stealing things to feed their habit,” said Palmer. “Addiction is an engine for other crimes. People need to understand how that starts and how it can happen to anyone.”

Kindle said everyone needs to be informed, and everyone needs to take action.

“We want to get information out about what programs are out there they can engage into to assist themselves or family members if they have a problem,” she said. “We want to keep the community informed about the problem and what they can do. If you see someone slumped over the steering wheel in a parking lot, do something. You might save someone’s life.”