Addiction Recovery and Harm Reduction in the Upper Peninsula

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Nationwide opioid overdoses have hit record highs. The most recent overdose data recorded in Michigan shows nearly 3,000 people died in 12 months. Harm reduction solutions are an increasingly discussed topic around addiction and drug control. In the Upper Peninsula, UPSET teams are working with NorthCare Network to educate the public about the impacts of opioids in the community.

We are able to help carry their message when we run our drug education programs. In addition to that, we are in these houses and we communicate not only with the dealers, but also with the users. And they are a bit of a victim in all of this, because they are drug addicts. And they fight for their survival, through the purchase of drugs. – Lieutenant/D. Tim Sholander, Michigan State Police/UPSET

UPSET acknowledges that law enforcement and harm reduction are tools who must work together. In 2016, Michigan passed the Naloxone Standing Order Act. The law allows residents to receive naloxone at any pharmacy, no questions asked. And although naloxone doesn’t prevent an overdose, it can prevent someone’s death.

This opportunity for an individual to receive clean syringes, supplies, access to Narcan and from someone who makes it available without a doubt. And empower them to make changes when they’re ready. – Judi Brugman, director of substance abuse prevention and treatment, NorthCare Network

Finding a path to healing is different for each individual. And educating residents on what to look for and do in an emergency is a key part of a community in recovery. Law enforcement and NorthCare Network want to share resources for people to recover and reduce the number of overdoses.

In the Upper Peninsula, each health department has a clean needle service program and includes Narcan distribution. Two of the departments also specialize in harm reduction education. Specialists train people on how to use life-saving drugs and provide information on how to obtain naloxone from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Typically, what happens during an opioid overdose, a person’s breathing slows and may eventually stop. And so naloxone reverses that. And allows breathing to recover. And for the individual to essentially regain consciousness. –Judi Burgman

The goal of harm reduction programs is to minimize the number of overdoses in an area. And reduce the amount of disease spread by sharing needles. UPSET focuses on drug law enforcement. Naturally, the call of duty puts officers in touch with users, allowing them to refer them to drug treatment programs when possible.

Because we communicate directly with these people that we hang out with a lot, try to dissuade them from using drugs. And we can guide them to try to take advantage of some of these programs. They can no longer take drugs. I think there’s a good, good relationship with NorthCare Network, with UPSET, with some of these other programs that exist on the Upper Peninsula. – Lieutenant/D. Tim Sholander

Sholander ended our interview on this note.

In terms of law enforcement, it’s not a problem that we can just arrest people for. And throw them in jail. Because there is a higher resistivity rate. People come out of prison and want to use drugs again. You really need to work together as a community, as a whole. And it works with the medical side. It’s working with pharmacists. It works with court systems. And these programs like drug courts. And suicide prevention. All in one group. So hopefully we can continue those relationships and just try to help clean up this community as best we can, as a whole. – Lieutenant/D. Tim Sholander

harm reduction resources;

Keweenaw Report has contacted a number of pharmacies in Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties to confirm that naloxone is available for pickup. Each pharmacy manager said they were fully stocked and an individual would only have to ask for the medicine. Official map of MDHHS pharmacies.

Naloxone Standing Order Act 2016

NorthCare Network Substance Abuse DiOrder Providers

Naloxone Nasal Spray Guide

Safety tips for families

General Physician’s Naloxone Advisory Information

WUPHD Syringe services

Set up an education seminar with UPSET at 906 228 1002, Lt./D. Tim Sholander

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