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 Families Against Narcotics Executive Director Linda Davis, right, hugs Erin Whitkopf, data coordinator at Hope Not Handcuffs, during the program’s two-year celebration Feb. 1 at Christ Church in Fraser. Davis was recently honored for FAN’S work with the rural community in the state.

Families Against Narcotics Executive Director Linda Davis, right, hugs Erin Whitkopf, data coordinator at Hope Not Handcuffs, during the program’s two-year celebration Feb. 1 at Christ Church in Fraser. Davis was recently honored for FAN’S work with the rural community in the state.

File photo by Sarah Purlee


FAN executive director earns honor for work in rural areas

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 27, 2019

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FRASER — It has been an eventful, yet productive year for Linda Davis.

Davis left her longtime judgeship at 41-B District Court. On April 1, she officially became the executive director of Families Against Narcotics — a grassroots organization she co-founded in 2007.

She was recently honored as a “community star” by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, or NOSORH. Including overseeing 50 state offices of rural health, it leads the facilitation of National Rural Health Day — an annual day of recognition celebrated on the third Thursday every November, shining a light on the vital health needs of an approximate 57 million Americans in rural areas.

Ashley Muninger, communications and development coordinator for NOSORH, said the organization accepts nominations from people nationwide. For the first time, this year, a selection committee reviewed all the nominations received, with one “star” chosen from each state.

Nominations take into account numerous achievements: cultivating innovative rural health landscapes and infrastructure; developing a leadership capacity to grow rural population health and health equity; building the capacity for rural-driven program planning and decision making; and contributing to overall rural health innovation, education, collaboration and communication.

In total, NOSORH received 99 nominations from 44 states.

Davis was nominated by FAN’s director of operations, Kelley Nahas, who has worked with Davis for the past six years.

In her nomination, Nahas called Davis “a positive asset” who has always been efficient and a great creator of community partnerships. Nahas mentioned how Davis served on former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Opiate Task Force, and as well as being invited to the president’s Opiate Task Force.

“Linda has made a measurable impact over the past 12 years as a passionate advocate for all those afflicted with substance use dependency,” Nahas said after Davis was awarded. “Her leadership is responsible for the growth and expansion of Families Against Narcotics and the Hope Not Handcuffs program, both across the state and into the rural areas, where it is much needed.”

Davis said she was very honored, saying it’s really the first time FAN has gotten involved with the rural community. It has been a successful venture thus far, due to FAN being cost efficient and predominantly being a volunteer organization.

This year, FAN received a rural grant and spent a lot of time in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, much of it in Traverse City and nearby communities. The organization spread the word about the Hope Not Handcuffs program, providing “coaching to people who don’t know how to deal with addiction.”

Leaving the judgeship was not a hard transition, Davis admitted. But now she is even more immersed in helping FAN succeed, due to the organization’s growth in relation to staffing, chapters and volunteers.

“It has really allowed us the opportunity to grow our program and become much more professional in the way we approach things. … Running this organization has kind of always been a dream of mine,” Davis said. “It’s been a personal journey for me because of addiction in my own family. It’s something that’s so needed.”

In 2020, FAN has high hopes. It received grants for pilot programs, including a stigma-fighting program that will include podcasts, as well as continued work within school districts utilizing different approaches.

Another grant is related to quick response teams, which involves law enforcement making introductions with those who overdose — or their loved ones — and deciphering whether additional help is needed, such as through the Hope Not Handcuffs program.

“That is a gap that desperately needs to be filled,” she said. “People who overdose are not always ready for treatment. They’ve just gone through a traumatic experience.”

Other initiatives include more Narcan expansion, which involves training individuals in businesses and forming more partnerships with blue-collar unions — a “susceptible class of people” who develop addictions due to on-the-job injuries and being prescribed pain medication.

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