Linda Davis, the executive director of Families Against Narcotics, speaks during a Feb. 3 press conference at the Sterling Heights Police Department to announce a new initiative to combat drug overdoses.

Linda Davis, the executive director of Families Against Narcotics, speaks during a Feb. 3 press conference at the Sterling Heights Police Department to announce a new initiative to combat drug overdoses.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Sterling Heights police partner with initiative to stop future overdoses

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 7, 2020

 Frankee Walker, from Roseville, and Dina Garcia, from Sterling Heights, attended the press conference. Both have been involved in enacting Families Against Narcotics programming.

Frankee Walker, from Roseville, and Dina Garcia, from Sterling Heights, attended the press conference. Both have been involved in enacting Families Against Narcotics programming.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — People who experience a drug overdose in Sterling Heights will have a new option to get help, thanks to a partnership among police and an antidrug nonprofit.

During a Feb. 3 press conference at the Sterling Heights Police Department and the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, along with local law enforcement and the nonprofit Families Against Narcotics, local officials announced the beginning of the Comeback Quick Response Team. The team will consist of a police officer, a nurse and a peer recovery coach. The team will not be there to punish, but to arrange help if the person seeks it, officials said.

According to Sterling Heights officials, the response team will offer to assist an individual who had an overdose within 72 hours of its occurrence.

During the press conference, FAN Executive Director Linda Davis said, sometimes, police visit an overdose victim multiple times, adding that letting people be “left there to relapse over and over again” is a gap in handling overdoses, and it wastes police resources.

According to a FAN press release, the Comeback Quick Response Team will operate in two phases. In the first phase, they will call homes that experience drug overdoses. In the second phase, the response team will respond to arrestees who possess narcotics. The intent is to give resources and help at a treatment center, and a chance to defer jail sentences.

Davis said her group had the idea behind the new effort years ago, but they lacked the funding. FAN said a $90,000 federal grant aimed at helping people conquer addiction helped make the new initiative possible. She credited the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which had access to some funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once funding was possible, Davis said, FAN and its partners got to work quickly, and Sterling Heights “instantly” presented itself as a pilot opportunity.

Sterling Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said his department has trained six officers to be part of the response team program. He said that, through the Hope Not Handcuffs program, almost 100 people in Sterling Heights have gone to the Police Department for help with overcoming their drug addictions. The new pilot program is a way to take this concept on the road, he explained.

“We’re going to do a door knock, and we’re going to say, ‘Hey, are you OK? What can we do to help you? And we have support right here. We can get you into treatment today,’” Dwojakowski said.

“And I think that’s huge: No. 1 — that someone cares about you, someone’s reaching out to get you support, to get you off the drugs.”

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor praised the police and said the old way of doing things is no longer working, so it’s time for something new. He said the new program deals with people in a compassionate way.

“Cities have to be forward-thinking, they have to be proactive and they have to be progressive in how they deal with this,” he said.

In a Facebook post on the topic, he added that addiction needs to be treated as a disease.

“We can’t just lock people up and expect this epidemic to go away,” Taylor said. “I’m proud that Sterling Heights is going to be the first city in Michigan with an overdose response program like this.

“Other states have tried with success. I am confident that our program in Sterling Heights will be a model for other cities in Macomb County and Michigan to emulate.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said it used to be popular for a prosecutor to appear tough, with a conviction rate to reflect that. But as Macomb County’s opioid deaths “more than tripled” in the past five years, he said the world has changed, “and we have to change with it.”

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or call the Sterling Heights Police Department at (586) 446-2800. To reach Families Against Narcotics, visit www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org.

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