Feb. 23, 2016 — Escanaba Public Safety’s Angel Program was launched Tuesday. Those addicted to drugs now have the option to walk into public safety and ask for help.
Lt. Robert LaMarche said they have two facilities to use — one downstate in Muskegon and one in Gaastra in Iron County.
“The one in Gaastra is going to be the primary one were are going to use because it is almost immediate,” LaMarche said. “When I call up there and if they say, ‘yes, we have a bed,’ basically what I do is call one of our angels, they’ll come down to the department and meet with me and whoever walked into the department. After we do a quick introduction and we get a placement from Gaastra, let’s say, that person is on their way to Gaastra.”
The treatment is for 8 to 12 months.
Delta County Prosecutor Phil Strom who heads the Task Force Against Substance Abuse said this is the first program of its kind in Michigan.
“What we have come to realize here in Delta County is that drug abuse and drug addiction is bigger that just a criminal issue — it’s a public health issue. So, we need looking at drug addition and drug abuse with a more open mind,” said Strom.
Strom said it is not a way to avoid drug convictions but to help those not in trouble with the law.
Christine Gagnon volunteered to be one of the 18 angels who have stepped forward so far to help take addicts to the treatments facilities. She struggled with drug herself and said the Angel Program at public safety is going to benefit the community.
“Seeing I’ve gone through the situations that these people are going to experience I think I have a little more insight to that coming in and I can relate to what they’re going through. It’s not an easy process. It’s scary,” Gagnon said. “So, hopefully by being there, talking them through it and letting them know there is a better life after drugs. Someone being there to support them being there to support them through the entire process is an amazing thing.”
She said there is a very small window when someone makes the decision to quite.
Joy Hopkins at OSF St. Francis Hospital and a member of the substance abuse task force said she hopes the Angel Program will benefit babies in the community who are born addicted to drugs.
“We see babies born addicted to people even of older age. I think if we can break the cycle of addiction in some of these families that will just be amazing results down the road. It won’t happen over night but one person, one day at a time, I think we’re going to be able to make great strides,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said babies born addicted to drugs is a real problem in community. A convention in May will take a look specifically at that problem.