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Hope Not Handcuffs is lifeline for addicts


Program provides a pathway to recovery for the addicted


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Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna, Almont Police Chief Andy Martin, Imlay City Police Chief Scott Pike, Russell Adams of Lapeer County EMS and Lapeer County Undersheriff Jeremy Howe advocate for HOPE.

June 07, 2017
LAPEER COUNTY — When Scott McKenna was running for Sheriff, he listed opioid, heroin and substance abuse among the biggest challenges facing local law enforcement.

While the scourge of addiction reaches epidemic proportion nationwide, Sheriff McKenna is taking a unique step to address the problem in Lapeer County.

On June 1, McKenna announced the establishment of "Hope Not Handcuffs," a new program that allows addicted individuals to turn themselves in to local law enforcement so they may seek treatment.

The cooperative Lapeer County/Genesee County venture involves the participation of the Lapeer County Sheriff's Department, Almont and Imlay City police departments, Lapeer County Families Against Narcotics (FAN), Lapeer County EMS and a group of volunteers (AKA Angels) whose critical role is to assist addicts on their respective roads to recovery.

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McKenna explained that Hope Not Handcuffs is contingent on the willingness and commitment of the addicted individual to deal with the problem.

"An addict can voluntarily turn themselves in to any of the participating departments for the purpose of receiving treatment," said McKenna. "Once the process has been initiated, we contact a volunteer (Angel) who takes over."

The role of the Angel is to coordinate treatment, provide transportation and information, and generally be assistive to the addict in setting forth his/her path to recovery.

"While this program alone will not rid our communities of these drugs that have plagued our communities," McKenna said, "it can begin the process of recovery if the individual wants it."

Undersheriff Jeremy Howe agreed that the program's success will require the full participation of the addict.

He added that while Hope Not Handcuffs is new to Lapeer County, similar programs have been successful, including in nearby Macomb County, where 215 drug-addicted individuals have sought help.

"Our job is to act as facilitators," said Howe. "We try to make the individual comfortable in their surroundings, then we contact a volunteer Angel to meet with them privately and begin the process of providing treatment.

"It's a new concept for local law enforcement," Howe admitted, "but this program has proved to be effective in Macomb County and in Eastern states.

"It's important to understand that people who are struggling with addictions are still deserving of support," Howe said. "A lot of times that means detoxing before the treatment can begin."

He added that Lapeer County EMS has agreed to provide an addict's transportation to a local treatment center.

As participants in Hope Not Handcuffs, Almont Police Chief Andy Martin likes the novel approach to dealing with the county's growing addiction problem.

"This program offers a safe haven for people who really want the help," said Martin. "It's our job to place a call to a volunteer on behalf of the individual seeking help.

Volunteer Angels sought

Hope Not Handcuffs is currently looking for volunteers to serve as "angels" in Lapeer County.

Cheri Pfeiffer, vice president of Families Against Narcotics, described "angels" as the individuals called upon to provide comfort and support for addicts who walk into any of the three participating law enforcement departments.

Volunteers willing and able to donate any amount of their time to the Hope Not Handcuffs program are encouraged to sign up by calling 810-410-6010, or visit the website at: www.familiesagainstnarcotics/hopenothandcuffs.org.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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