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New Wayne County program aims to put opioid addicts on path to recovery

Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

A pilot project in western Wayne County will offer people struggling with opioid addiction a possible path to recovery.

The Rescue Recovery program will provide people referred from St. Mary Mercy Livonia hospital or one of 18 participating law enforcement agencies with the opportunity to go through specialized detoxification treatment at the hospital.

It will also offer access to long term peer coaching from recovering addicts. Participants will also have access to substance abuse treatment services offered through Wayne County, with the possibility of medication-assisted treatment to help with recovery.

Patrick Stropes runs peer recovery support services for Plymouth-based Growth Works, the non-profit social services agency that will provide the peer coaches. The agency currently has eight coaches on staff and is looking to add more.

Stropes says a similar treatment model saved his own life, after multiple run-ins with law enforcement that ended with a drug- and alcohol-fueled blackout episode where he assaulted a police officer.

Stropes ended up in a treatment center, but says it was his peer recovery coach—now on-staff at Growth Works—who truly set him on the path to a sustainable recovery from addiction.

“I was able to stay there and embrace recovery from somebody who walked in my shoes. See, that’s the biggest piece of this,” Stropes said.

Brian Spitsbergen, also with Growth Works, says he and the Canton Township public safety supervisor sat down and “pretty much sketched out on a napkin” an outline for what became Rescue Recovery several years ago.

Spitsbergen says that’s when they started seeing a surge of people addicted to opioids showing up on their doorstep in acute crisis. But the system wasn’t equipped to let them capitalize on that “moment of clarity” when they were motivated to kick their addiction.

“The immediate need that was a huge gap was the fact that when people were in that moment of clarity, they had nowhere to go,” Spitsbergen said. “There was no beds available, there was nobody to talk to, and there was a wide gap between the opportunity for them to get help, whether they had insurance or not.

“The beds weren’t readily available, folks didn’t know what to do. And that just ended up being like the biggest piece of why we needed to start to make some systemic change, and try something new.”

St. Mary Mercy currently only has five beds available in its medical detoxification unit, but is looking to looking to about double that in the near future, President and CEO Dave Spivey said. The average in-patient detoxification protocol takes averages around five days.

The one-year pilot received a total of $615,000 in state funding this fiscal year. The hope is that positive first-year results will allow the program to become permanent and expand. Participating communities include Livonia, Westland, Garden City, Wayne, and Canton.

According to provisional data from the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office, the county recorded 848 drug-related overdose deaths in 2017. The vast majority had opioids in the mix, with 430 linked to the powerful and deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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