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Addiction Recovery and Harm Reduction in the Upper Peninsula

Nationwide opioid overdoses have reached record highs. The most recent data recording overdoses in Michigan show close to 3,000 people died in a 12 month period. Harm reduction solutions are an increasing topic of discussion around addiction and drug enforcement. In the Upper Peninsula, UPSET teams work with NorthCare Network to educate the public on the impacts of opioids in the community.

We’re able to help deliver their message, when we do our drug education programs. On top of that we are in these homes, and we’re communicating not only with the dealers, but the users. And they’re somewhat victims in all of this, because they’re addicts. And they’re fighting for their survival, through the means of purchasing drugs. – Lt./D. Tim Sholander, Michigan State Police/UPSET

UPSET recognizes that enforcement and harm reduction are tools that need to work together. Back in 2016 Michigan passed the Naloxone Standing Order Law. The law allows residents to receive naloxone from any pharmacy, no questions asked. And while naloxone won’t prevent an overdose, it can stop someone’s death.

That opportunity for an individual to receive clean syringes, supplies, access to Narcan and from someone that makes that available without question. And empower them to make changes when they’re ready. – Judi Brugman, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Director, NorthCare Network

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

In the Upper Peninsula, each health department has a clean syringe service program, and includes Narcan distribution. Two of the departments also specialize in harm reduction education. Specialists train people on how to use the life saving medication, and provide information on how to get naloxone from the state’s department of health and human services.

Typically what happens in an opioid overdose, a person’s breathing slows, and could eventually stop. And so the naloxone reverses that. And allows the breathing to be restored. And for the individual to basically 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 diseases spread by sharing syringes. UPSET is focused on enforcing drug laws. Naturally the call of duty, puts officers in contact with users, and that allows them to point them toward addiction programs when possible.

Cause we’re having direct communication with those people we do very much, try to deter them from using drugs. And we can guide them to try to take advantage of some of these programs. So they can not be on drugs anymore. I think there is a good, good relationship with NorthCare Network, with UPSET, with some of these other programs that are across the Upper Peninsula. – Lt./D. Tim Sholander

Sholander ended our interview on this note.

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

Harm Reduction Resources;

Keweenaw Report reached out to a number of pharmacies in Houghton, Baraga, and Ontonagon counties to confirm naloxone is available for pick up. Each pharmacy manager said they are fully stocked, and an individual would only need to ask for the medication. MDHHS official pharmacies map.

2016 Naloxone Standing Order Law

NorthCare Network Substance Use Disorder Providers

Naloxone Nasal Spray Guide

Safety Advice for Families

Surgeon General Naloxone Advisory Information

WUPHD Syringe Services

Set up a Education Seminar with UPSET at 906 228 1002, Lt./D. Tim Sholander

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