ESCANABA – A forum is being held Tuesday, Dec. 1, in Escanaba to discuss a growing drug problem in Delta County and provide an action plan to help those who want to recover from their addiction.
It is being sponsored by the Delta County Task Force Against Substance Abuse, a group of community leaders that want to lessen the growing impact of drugs in the area.
“The forum is an opportunity to look at the substance abuse issue that we know exists here locally and talk about some different initiatives that we have in store for 2016 where we plan to really try to tackle some of the issues and make some improvements over the next year and into the future,” said Delta County Prosecutor Phil Strom, who heads the task force.
The task force has two goals – to make the community aware of the problem and offer solutions for treatment to those who seek it. He says these goals look at drug addition in a way that many are not used to.
“There’s certainly an enforcement side of this conversation and the enforcement is not going to go away,” Strom said. “The people who have an addiction and want help for that addiction though, we need to offer help.”
Prescription drugs has long been a problem in Delta County. Strom says it has now moved into IV drugs such methamphetamine, buprenorphine and heroin. The action plan that will be presented Tuesday will include three components that are designed to help those that are addicted to drugs and want help.
The first is called the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). It is a national program that Strom said offers an innovative approach towards dealing with substance abuse and addiction recovery. It has been successful in reducing crime in other communities.
“Logistically, a person would actually walk through the doors at public safety, inform them that they need help, that they are addicted to drugs and hopefully turn over any drugs or drug equipment that they may have. The person would not be arrested and they won’t be prosecuted. Instead, the law enforcement would assist them to addiction recovery,” said Strom.The nation-wide partnership, Strom said, will open a lot of doors.
The second initiative is the implementation of a drug court in Delta County. It was a campaign issue during the District Judge race in 2014. The county has since received funding for the program and the staff has begun training.
At the forum Tuesday, a presentation will look at the structure of a drug court, how many people would likely take advantage of the program and how they would monitor those in the drug court.
“There’s a whole team that helps individuals once they get into drug court. The goal is to get them sober and get them back to being productive members of the community,” said Strom.
The third component is a community correction pre-sentence treatment initiative that places people into a treatment program after they have been charged with a crime instead of keeping them in jail.
Strom said two people have already been placed this year in treatment programs as a test for the program.
“We want to see if our dollars are going to be worth spending on the program. We’re hoping to see continuing results into 2016,” he said.
Strom said the task force is also looking to get information from the community. The forum will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the Bay College Besse Auditorium.
It will include presentations from Strom, court officials, health officials and law enforcement. For more information, go to fightingdrugabuse.org.
(Information Courtesy of Delta County Prosecutor Phil Strom)