Police officer looking out of a window

Taking Action: The Power of Putting “Hope Before Handcuffs”

The opioid epidemic affects millions of individuals and families across the country, and the unsettling reality is that everyone is vulnerable to it.

Linda Davis, district court judge of Macomb County, experienced this first-hand when her teenage daughter, a straight-A student and gifted athlete, admitted to having a heroin addiction.

“I was just beginning to recognize how much this problem was impacting the people around me—neighbors, friends—and shortly after my own daughter admitted to struggling with addiction,” Davis explained.

Without skipping a beat, Davis and members of her community rallied together to organize a town hall event. It became clear that substance abuse was more widespread than Davis imagined when nearly 100 people attended the first meeting.

“We had such a wide variety of people, all who had important perspectives on the issue,” Davis recalled. “Police officers, the superintendent, parents and even young people who had started the path to recovery wanted to get involved.”

Judge Linda Davis Speaking at a grant presentation

Judge Linda Davis, 41B District Court

Little did Davis know that those meetings would evolve into an organization with 20 chapters across Michigan.

The coalition, which now goes by the name Families Against Narcotics (F.A.N.), is a 501(c)3 organization that has become a distinguished network for support, resources and education around addiction and substance abuse.

In Macomb County alone, more than 750 opioid or heroin-related deaths have been reported from 2010 to 2015. F.A.N. is one of nine community coalitions chosen to receive funding through the Taking Action on Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse in Michigan by Supporting Community Responses initiative, with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, The Michigan Health Endowment Fund, The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and The Superior Health Foundation.

“When I first met Judge Davis, I was struck by her ability to balance being a law-abiding judge and a compassionate advocate for families coping with this very personal and public problem,” said Audrey Harvey, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

With $75,000 in grant funding, F.A.N. will expand the work of their “Hope Not Handcuffs” program, which tackles the stigma of addiction by providing treatment to those addicted to opioids or illicet drugs rather than a criminal charge.

Currently, more than 50 Michigan police departments allow individuals struggling with addiction to walk in and ask for help. Officers will call a Hope Not Handcuffs “Angel”, or F.A.N. correspondent trained to escort the individual to treatment.

“We’ve placed more than 1,000 individuals into treatment,” Davis proudly shared. “It’s incredible to see a program that started with just over 100 participants become something so much bigger. We’re excited and thankful for the opportunity to move even further.”

To learn more about the work F.A.N. is doing, or visit one of their Michigan chapters, visit: www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org.

Photo Credit: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Video: Families Against Narcotics

To grow your knowledge about opioids and opioid misuse, as well as Blue Cross’ commitment to combating the opioid epidemic, visit these blogs:

This post is part of our Taking Action series, in which we’ll focus on Blue Cross-supported efforts across Michigan to address the opioid epidemic. Check back to find out how other communities are fighting the problem of opioid use disorder and overdose.

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