The Rev. Mike Quaine, of St. Michael Catholic Community church; Michelle Hayes, St. Michael’s Christian service minister; and Annette Perrino, the program manager of the Macomb Partnership for Overdose Prevention, attend an Aug. 31 naloxone giveaway event to save lives from opioid overdoses.

The Rev. Mike Quaine, of St. Michael Catholic Community church; Michelle Hayes, St. Michael’s Christian service minister; and Annette Perrino, the program manager of the Macomb Partnership for Overdose Prevention, attend an Aug. 31 naloxone giveaway event to save lives from opioid overdoses.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Macomb anti-drug overdose group distributes free naloxone

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published September 3, 2020

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MACOMB COUTY — Outside a Sterling Heights church, a lifesaving treatment was recently offered for people at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.

The Macomb County Partnership for Overdose Prevention, or MPOP, ran an event at St. Michael Catholic Community church Aug. 31, which was International Overdose Awareness Day.

The event distributed free packages of naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote medication — as well as tips on how to use it — to people in a drive-up format. Attendees could remain anonymous.

MPOP program manager Annette Perrino said her group started as Operation Rx in 2015. The reason for the name change was that the organization wanted to broaden its scope beyond the opioid epidemic. People who may have one kind of drug addiction may simultaneously have others, she explained.  

“(The old name) just kind of gave off the impression that we were only focusing on prescription drugs,” she said.

Today, MPOP still seeks to stop and prevent opioid and drug abuse in the county. According to the group, Macomb County had 257 deaths attributed to opioids in 2018.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the number of opioid overdose cases, and emergency responses have risen 33% between April and May, as well as rising 26% April-June year to year when compared to 2019.

Perrino said the Aug. 31 event had a popup tent set up, and drivers could go to it and receive the naloxone. Funding for the project came from the MDHHS.

According to organizers, the purpose was to put the treatment in the hands of people who have the highest chances of using it to save a life, whether they be opioid users or someone who knows someone with an addiction.

She said people have been able to get naloxone for free at prior events, but there usually was a training session that went into it. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing rules, written instructions were given instead.

“This is kind of moving that barrier of training,” she said. “We have some flier instructions on how to use it, some frequently asked questions, some resources that are available in the county.”

Michelle Hayes, the Christian service minister at St. Michael, said her church has been involved with Operation Rx and MPOP for years by hosting drug takebacks, where people can safely dump their expired or unused prescription drugs so they don’t end up being misused or in the wrong hands.

She said the church was happy to host the naloxone event.

“When Annette asked if we could be a part of distributing the naloxone, it was definitely, ‘Yes, we’ll step up and do this in a safe method … to protect their health or their loved ones,’” she said. “It’s just a part of the ministry of helping others, reaching out to others, but also having people know that there is a safe place in their religious communities to go to that they feel comfortable to go.”

Hayes said the most important aspect of partnering with MPOP is reducing the stigma surrounding opioid addiction.

“We want to give people a safe place,” she said. “This church is a safe place to go. They can come and talk about these issues that are going on in their house.”

Before the event, Perrino said she hoped for 100 people to come, adding that that’s all the naloxone supply her group had. After the event, she said the group handed out 45 naloxone kits. She said she was happy with the outcome, adding that she heard stories from people who wanted to help their grandchildren.

“Some of the stories that were shared just made it all worth it,” she said.

Find out more about MPOP by calling (586) 469-6049. St. Michael Catholic Community, 40501 Hayes Road in Sterling Heights, can be reached by visiting stmichaelcc.org or by calling (586) 247-0020.

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