By ZEINAB NAJM
ALLEN PARK — The Police Department has partnered up with Families Against Narcotics to create a Comeback Quick Response Team to assist people struggling with addiction.
Police Chief Christopher Egan explained that the QRT is a three-member unit consisting of a police officer, certified peer recovery coach and certified family recovery coach.
Within 72 hours of a non-fatal drug overdose, the team goes to the house where a first responder had previously assisted with a resident with the life-threatening event.
“Like every community, we’ve been suffering huge losses of people that are overdosing on opioids and heroin and things like that, so one of the things we were able to do is I helped write a grant that is covering this Comeback Quick Response Team,” Egan said.
A kickoff was held Jan. 28 at the Police Department, making the initiative the 10th of its kind in Michigan. The pilot program was launched by the Sterling Heights Police Department last February.
During a Jan. 26 City Council meeting, Egan said six employees from his department signed up to take part in the city’s initiative.
Those employees are Coordinator Sgt. Ilie Fetelea, School Resource Officer Mike Bacile, Detective Jim Thorburn, previous undercover narcotics officer Shaun Harvey, K9 Officer Christopher Franco, and Officer Logan Wheeler who was on the Community Emergency Response Team.
“Everyone one of us who is on this team has been affected by losing someone so I think it’s a great start and it’s great for our community,” Egan said. “We’re not against our residents. We’re not against people with addiction problems. This truly is a way to help people. If you look at the people that signed up — our K9 officer that looks for drugs or undercover officer or school rescue officer, our detective, all of them want to step in and do that.”
The QRT team’s objective is to make contact with the individual who overdoses, as well as the family so the team can offer compassionate support, information and assist in obtaining recovery services in addition to connecting them with community resources.
Egan said the nurse, recovery coaches and treatment are free for Allen Park residents and that an individual doesn’t have to overdose to get help, they just have to reach out so the QRT can respond.
“We’ve had people that have passed away in our city this week, this month, so there is a need in our community,” He said. “Our goal is to do this low-key, not try and embarrass anybody, but to try and provide those services.
“I think it’s a vital thing that we’re going to be doing, and I think these officers who volunteered, all six of them, are really going to make a difference in our community.”
Families of the individuals also get assistance with a help family coach, not just a peer coach.
“The biggest thing I learned — these people don’t have a choice in their mind,” Egan said. “It’s not, ‘Hey, I don’t want to steal’ or ‘I shouldn’t do drugs today.’ It’s that addiction that they don’t have a choice. So, getting them to that point where they can step away from that and start new.
“I’m not going to lie it’s a law enforcement strategy. If you’re not addicted to drugs, you’re not breaking into our cars or garages. That’s great too, but it allows us as the police department to go out and actually help people, not just put them in jail.”
In 2020, FAN’s QRT’s visited 415 homes, assigned 79 peer recovery coaches, 65 family recovery coaches, and helped 48 people get into treatment, according to the Police Department.
Egan continued to praise the program and said it could expand to other Downriver cities.
“I’ve already talked to the chief of Riverview and some other chiefs that are looking at trying to join on and do this,” he said. “So, if we have someone in our hotel who might overdose and lives in Riverview and say, ‘Hey, can your team go check on them?’ We’re pretty excited about it.”
For more information on the initiative contact Allen Park police or go to www.comebackqrt.com.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])