Let me start off this New Year 2015 by shouting, from the bottom of my heart, “THANK YOU!” I can’t believe the life-changing support of this community. We have truly seen the outcome that is possible when a committed group of people come together–even in a wealthy, large community that doesn’t want to admit there is a problem. Our efforts together have shown our community, our leaders and our legislators that we need help. We demand help! The prescription drug crisis that has morphed up over the last 20 years has begun to be addressed; however, now look what’s happening: Heroin epidemic. Oakland County sees as least one overdose death per day. Unfortunately, that is going to get worse before it gets better.
As a parent, grandparent and President of this group, I intend to work even harder this year to bring awareness and education to our community and beyond, especially our youth, about the drug of choice these days: opiates/heroin (because they are one and the same–doctors sell you one and the drug cartel is selling the other). Studies are proving more and more often that substance use and abuse starts at earlier ages than previously thought and, sadly, lots of times it starts at home in our own medicine cabinets. I can attest to that. As parents, we know it is our job to be aware of the dangers and try to be proactive. The problem has been, we didn’t know. People didn’t have a clue how addictive opiates could be. Doctors didn’t really know until recently. Only now that the US has 45 people per day dying from overdoses (one 17-25 year-old per day in Oakland County) do we feel a sliver of HOPE that our voices are being heard.
Addiction takes the whole family hostage. The average addict’s actions affect an average of five other people. Sometimes these people don’t have a clue that their loved one is using heroin and, sadly, when we do figure it out, it is often too late. That is not to say every addict will die or end up in prison, because they don’t. Addicts are learning recovery. They are slowly starting to defy the odds. The disease of addiction never goes away but can be managed, but NOT if we remain in DENIAL. Keeping the silence just enables the beast to grow. Please don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or hopeless. Know that we are not alone in this nightmare. We must face it head on. Everybody knows somebody who is suffering from or lost to opiate/heroin addiction in one way or another. We need to realize that the underlying cause of this epidemic is a medical disease, often, multiple medical diseases.
We must continue to fight with all our resources. There is strength in numbers. Reach out, speak up! Your voice will be heard. Our voices have been heard: from holding monthly Community Action Meetings (CAM) to providing the social network connections to support 4,500 people (in the most painful situations ever), to the FED Up March and Rally we attended at the White House, to filming our own 45-minute documentary on the effects of heroin addiction in our community, to opioid overdose prevention training’s & Naloxone distributions, to the thousands of phone calls & letters written to legislators, leaders, Executive Directors, School Superintendents, law enforcement, EMS, hospitals, doctors, coalitions, etc., and then getting the call from Governor’s Snyder’s office that he is about to sign the bills you have advocated for the past year…… PRICELESS!
If you haven’t already, come out to one of our meetings or events and see how you can be part of the solution to rid this drug pollution from our community. Our wagon is rolling, so jump on board! If nothing changes, then nothing changes. What have you got to lose?
Jeannie Richards – Founder and President
Bryan’s HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention Education)