(WXYZ) — Police and health experts are teaming up with new and innovative ways to battle the opioid epidemic and save more lives.
Just this week, Sterling Heights police arrested a man they say was selling fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone, imprinted with the 'M30' label. In that situation, police said there were 18,000 pills seized, and the investigation extended across Macomb and Oakland counties.
For David Clayton, helping others who find themselves facing addiction has become a mission.
“Being a person in long-term recovery myself, I know firsthand what these individuals using drugs are going through," Clayton said.
He added, “I understand what it’s like to feel like there is absolutely no way out.”
Clayton is the program director at HARM:LESS, a harm reduction support team in Macomb County that is part of families against narcotics.
What is harm reduction? The National Harm Reduction Coalition said it incorporates different strategies that include safer use, managed use, abstinence and meeting people who use drugs "where they're at."
According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), thousands of people die annually from drug overdoses in the United States.
"When someone thinks they are getting something and actually getting something else, that has a lethal dose it shows the significance of what’s really out there now," Clayton said.
His team is committed to raising awareness and offering more resources to tackle the massive issue.
In Sterling Heights, police say they're proud that they not only seized the 18,000 fentanyl pills worth nearly $500,000, but they say they have also reduced overdose deaths by 30% in the last year, part of a multi-faceted approach to save lives.
“We have an outstanding recipe working and providing resources to people struggling with addiction," Lt. Mario Bastianelli said.
Clayton said by giving out free fentanyl test kits to ensure people aren’t accidentally taking the drug and free Narcan, more lives can be saved.” -
“Having great partnerships like that with families against narcotics is changing the tide, in the fight against this epidemic," Bastianelli said.
Another step harm reduction workers say could make a huge difference is having Narcan in every home.
Clayton's team also employs a mobile response unit that is equipped with numerous tools they can take anywhere.
"We can’t arrest our way out. We find treatment accessibility isn’t as easy as we think it is," Clayton said. “What we want is to let people know they are cared about. Worth something. They’re not just another. They’re all worth something. They’re not just throwaways they are people.”
HARM:LESS has locations throughout Michigan and offers monthly meetings and a handbook for anyone interested in learning more. For more information on HARM:LESS, visit their website.