Group hopes to educate, battle opiate crisis

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the battle on the growing opiate addiction problem continues, a Detroit-area group is adding its voice to the chorus trying to curb the problem.

Members of the newly formed Grand Rapids Chapter of Families Against Narcotics, or FAN, were set to hold their first meeting in Grand Rapids Tuesday night. The group was founded by everyday people in a church basement in a Detroit suburb back in 2007.

“It’s important that people understand this epidemic, they understand addiction and they understand just how susceptible – particularly their young adults – are to it,” said Macomb County District Court Judge Linda Davis, who is one of the driving forces behind the group.

It’s the job of a judge to make sure people who violate the law, including those who use drugs, pay the penalty.

“And then, all of the sudden, I had an issue in my own family, where my 17-year-old daughter became addicted to heroin,” Davis said.

Suddenly, the stigma surrounding addiction, and the struggles addicts and families face, became all too clear to Davis.

She made a decision.

“I’m a judge, I have a voice and I can make a difference,” said Davis, who leads FAN as president.

Grand Rapids now joins FAN’s 16 chapters in Michigan, including one in Battle Creek.

“We waste billions and billions of dollars on addiction every year on treatment that [is] not working. We need to come together and start doing things differently,” said Davis, whose daughter is now a recovering addict.

So along with offering support and hope to addicts and their families, the group is trying to change perceptions and approaches.

Tuesday, Davis met prosecutors at county, state and federal levels.

“This is a public health crisis,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Patrick Miles, who was among those who met with Davis Tuesday. “Normally you don’t see prosecutors – much less federal prosecutors – involved with a public health crisis.”

If you think the problem is confined to inner city drug dens, look outside your window. From 2013 to 2014, Michigan’s overdose rate increased 13 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Much of it was driven by legal prescription drug abuse or as gateways to illegal drugs like heroin.

“If we just set back and wait for someone else to do it, It’s never going to happen,” Davis said.