'Rides to Recovery' program aims to help war on opioids in metro Detroit

Posted at 5:02 AM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 10:42:17-04

It may be the deadliest ongoing battle our nation has fought in recent times, but it’s not a common enemy or one that needs to “fight back.”

When it comes to the war on drugs, specifically opioids, some may argue that the wounds are self-inflicted; but you won’t find anyone who says it doesn't warrant a fight.

Since 1999, deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled — that’s both prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin.

Back in August, President Trump noted that the opioid threat was out of control. In a meeting with now-departed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price the President detailed his own concerns, noting that it didn’t matter who you were: addiction could hit anywhere.

“Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens both young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural,” said President Trump.

In Oakland County, the strategy has been changing — this week the Sheriff’s Office announced two new programs: Rides for Recovery and a Medically Assisted Treatment program in the Oakland County Jail.

The Rides for Recovery program will allow residents throughout Oakland County to show up at the sheriff’s office, or any substation, for transportation to a Sober Support Unit. The individual would be screened for treatment options, and be placed in a treatment facility that matches the addicted individual’s needs.

The jail program would allow incarcerated individuals to seek treatment — upon their eventual release they would be taken to follow-up care and treatment centers for additional help.

“We cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic,” said Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “We want to offer treatment and education options to those who truly need it most.”

The move to greet drug offenders isn’t new in Michigan. A number of Michigan State Police posts throughout Michigan began “Angel Programs” earlier this year. Similar to what Oakland County plans with Rides for Recovery, they’ve drafted volunteers who will drive those who show up asking for help with addiction to nearby treatment facilities. The individuals can even turn over illegal drugs without threat of incarceration.

The change in the battlefront doesn’t stop at law enforcement — earlier this month Wayne and Oakland Counties teamed up to file a lawsuit against 12 pharmaceutical companies claiming that they, “over the course of more than two decades, the manufacturing defendants misled the public regarding the dangers of opioid addiction.”

The companies still have time to respond to the federal lawsuit in court, but the filing alone is a reminder that the battle with opioids is big enough that new strategies are being hatched to find a fix.

Those needing immediate assistance for substance abuse in Oakland County are encouraged to call the 24/7 Oakland Community Health Network Resource and Crisis helpline at (800) 231-1127.