Local leaders ramping up substance abuse prevention efforts in the region
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Dozens of lives have been saved due to a new feature added to law enforcement’s arsenal to combat the opioid crisis impacting the region.
Lynda Rutkowski, a substance abuse prevention specialist for Up North Prevention and the Crawford County Partnership for Substance Abuse, gave an update to the Crawford County Board of Commission on Thursday, June 25, on substance abuse prevention taking place in the region.
In 2015 a grant provided Narcan for every law enforcement vehicle in the region through the Northern Michigan Regional Entity, an organization which provides funding and resources for substance abuse prevention and education in 21 northern Michigan counties.
“Narcan is the brand name for a drug called naloxone that block the effects of an opioid, according to pathwaytohope.net. “Opioids like heroin bind to opioid receptors to relax you and essentially slow you down. In high doses, opioids can slow down breathing and heart rate to the point of oxygen deprivation. Narcan can be administered intravenously, injected into the muscle, or in the form of a nasal spray. The speed at which it begins to take effect depends on the method of administration, but it works within minutes. Naloxone can reverse and prevent an overdose for a half hour to an hour after it’s administered.”
As of July 2019, 120 lives in northern Michigan have been saved using the drug.
“When it’s available it works,” Rutkowski said.
There two different types of Narcan. One is a nasal spray, which comes with two doses of the lifesaving drug. The other comes with a syringe and three doses.
Rutkowski said law enforcement officers were hesitant about using the drug at first, but became more comfortable when the nasal spary was made available.
“They didn’t like the idea of poking people and they didn’t like the idea of saving somebody’s life that may just turn around and do it again,” she said. “It didn’t sit right with them.”
The transition with law enforcement officers came when they learned they could save someone from dying and provide the information that may lead them to get help with their substance abuse addiction.
The drug can revive a person who has shallow breathing or is not breathing at all.
“It’s incredible to experience that,” Rutkowski said.
Narcan kits were made available through the State Opioid Response Grant, which came from funding from federal government.
The kits can be obtained by business owners or to a family who knows they have a loved one struggling with opioid addiction.
Schools have also been supplied with the kits in case an overdose occurs as a sporting event or after school activity.
“The leading cause of drug overdoses in America is no longer cocaine, meth, or even heroin or common opioid painkillers like Percocet and OxyContin. It’s synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs,” according to www.vox.com. “The drug is shipped from China to the US, typically through Latin America. Along the way, it’s cut into heroin by drug traffickers and dealers, who can then make more money out of their newly cut heroin since it will have more kick for a lower dose.”
Throughout Michigan in 2017, there were 2,729 overdoses from drugs, 1,941 overdoses from opioids, 1,295 overdoses from synthetic drugs and 699 overdoses from heroin.
Rutkowski is hopeful that those numbers will drop through increased drug prevention and treatment efforts.
“I’m really hoping that when the statistics come out for 2018, we’re really going to see the tide turning,” she said.
Other upcoming substance abuse prevent efforts are also be hosted in the area.
From 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, August 6, a program called Safe Journey-Train the Trainer will be offered at the Roscommon Middle School, 299 W. Sunset Drive.
Another session will be offered at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 9, at the Grayling City Hall, 1020 City Boulevard.
The program focuses on drug and alcohol use before, during, and after pregnancy.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about drug and alcohol use that this program will be able to clear up,” Rutkowski said.
A program for youth called Stayin’ Alive is being offered as part of 4-H Summer Day Camp for Crawford and Roscommon counties. The first camp for ages 8 to 10 will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 5-7 at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area.
A second day camp for youth ages 11 to 14 will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 12 to 14 at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area.
There are 32 youth enrolled in the first day camp, while 23 are signed up for the second session.
“We have pretty good numbers for the first year doing this,” Rutkowski said.
Part of the day camp sessions will focus on substance abuse prevention, communication, decision making and refusal skills, peer pressure, problem solving, and dealing with anxiety.
“It’s in a fun and natural setting as opposed to sitting in a classroom and learning about it,” Rutkowski said
Finally, Keith Graves, a retired narcotics detective, will be conducting workshops on September 30 and October 1 at the Kirtland Community College Grayling Campus.
The first workshop is focused on drug recognition on September 30 and is open to first responders, social workers, teachers, and business owners.
Sessions on October 1 will focus on marijuana investigation and narcotic safety.