By Sarah Shurge – Sometimes one decision can change your life; like making the decision to get help. It might not seem like a huge decision, but it is the first and most important step towards the path of a better life for yourself.
That is what Hope Not Handcuffs is about. Being there for individuals that take that first important step, and helping them with the hard steps to follow.
Hope Not Handcuffs was started by Families Against Narcotics (FAN) with the mission to bring law enforcement and community organizations together in an effort to find treatment options for individuals seeking help to reduce substance dependency.
It all starts with a decision. When a person struggling with any substance-use disorder decides they want help, they can come to any police agency that is participating in Hope Not Handcuffs and ask for help. Instead of getting arrested or their name ran through the system, they will be greeted with support, compassion, and the focus is on getting that individual treatment.
The Wayne Police Department has been a participating agency in Hope Not Handcuffs since March 2021.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the addicted, it also affects the family and friends. Many times, family members struggling with loved ones in active addiction tend to feel ashamed and alone. FAN seeks to change the face of addiction, work to end the stigma of addiction, and educate the community, as well as those affected by addiction by creating positive change in the treatment of addiction.
FAN chapters existed in many other regions of Michigan but there wasn’t a single FAN chapter in Wayne Country. That is until a decision was made and a group of northwestern Wayne County members decided it was time to change that.
The Northwest Wayne County FAN chapter was launched in March 2017.
“We all need to work together to lessen the stigma for people to get help,” said Laura Mack, secretary of the Northwest Wayne County FAN chapter since 2018.
The Wayne Rotary Club partnered with FAN and Hope Not Handcuffs by holding two club events (in September 2020 and December 2020) to load backpacks for Hope Not Handcuff participants.
Mack, also the Wayne Rotary Club president, along with other Wayne Rotarians and friends helped load 200 string backpacks with personal care items like: toothbrush and toothpaste (travel size), shampoo and conditioner (travel size), deodorant, hard candy, granola bars, body wash/soap, face masks, hand sanitizer, bottled water, laminated card with local resources such as food pantries, donation centers, AA/NA meetings, etc.
They also supplied items that would not fit in the backpacks such as: sweatpants, sweatshirts, socks and small blankets.
These backpacks and items are placed in bins at every participating police station. When someone comes through wanting help from Hope Not Handcuffs, they will be gifted with a backpack and those items.
The Wayne Hope Not Handcuffs has had 12 requests for assistance, making it the busiest in Wayne County to date.
“The Wayne Police Department is thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in Hope Not Handcuffs. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment, and this is a great way to give some folks a chance to get treatment by walking in our front door,” said Wayne Police Chief Ryan Strong.
Making the decision to get help is hard. Showing up at the police station is hard. But getting treatment and following through is hard too.
Once an individual shows up to the police station in search of help, Jeff Jones, the coordinator/director for Hope Not Handcuffs in Wayne is called. His job is to dispatch an “Angel” to the police station. If he can’t find an Angel, he will go to the police station personally.
Angels are trained to take down information, enter it into the Hope Not Handcuff database, and if the individual is accepted into the program, work to get that person into proper treatment placement.
Getting an individual into treatment can be challenging but the Hope Not Handcuffs’ team will work to get them into treatment as soon as possible. Once they are in the Hope Not Handcuffs’ system, a recovery coach will be assigned to them along with a family recovery coach after they are out of recovery and in housing.
“It’s not just getting them into treatment, it’s giving them what they need to not relapse,” said Mack.
In 2020, nearly 255 people died from drug overdose every day in the United States. That is almost 11 people every hour. Since February 1, 2017, 6,214 people have been given hope through Hope Not Handcuffs.
Every month FAN puts on forums to spread information and offer a network of support to those affected by addiction. Experts and guest speakers speak on all aspects to help the families.
The next forum will be on October 6th at the First Congregational Church of Wayne at 12:30 p.m. Speakers will include Lauren Rousseau, President of Northwest Wayne FAN and Jeff Jones. You can contact Laura Mack at email@example.com if you are interested in attending.
Hope Not Handcuffs is in need of more Angels volunteers. If you are interested in becoming an Angel, there will be a training session on October 30th at 11 a.m. at the Wayne Police Station. The training will last about two hours.
If you are interested in getting involved, either by donating supplies for backpacks or bins, donating money, becoming an Angel, or attending a forum, you can find information at familiesagainstnarcotics.org or contact Laura Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.