'We Will Not Arrest Our Way Out of a Drug Problem' Former DEA Agent Tells Task Force - (The Saline Post)
by BOB CONRADI
05/05/2014 - 10:04
The May 1 meeting of the Saline Addiction Prevention Task Force began with excellent news. Seed money to support the group’s efforts came from two sources.
First, Brian Puffer from Saline Community Education came forward with a check for $661. The money was raised from a silent auction held at the Spring Craft Show. This year, Community Education selected the drug task force to receive this gift.
Next, task force co-chair Larry Hrinik read a letter from St. Joseph Mercy Health System announcing the organization's decision to donate $10,000 to the task force. Michele Szczypka who helped to secure the grant was there to reinforce the commitment of St. Joseph Mercy. Mayor Brian Marl expressed his gratitude.
“There’s a self-denial that a lot of parents have that they don’t think that their kids are involved with drugs and the minute they ultimately find out it’s too late.” -- Ken Magee, Former DEA Agent
It was also announced that there are now sufficient numbers of volunteers to staff the three subcommittees, “Resources,” “Prevention” and “Grants and Funding.” Names of volunteers will be presented for approval by the city council at their next meeting on Monday, May 12. More volunteers are still welcome to apply.
But it was not all good news. For example, Harvey Grotrian presented data showing that overdose deaths per capita in Washtenaw County are high relative to the rest of the nation. There is much work to be done.
The major focus of the meeting was a presentation by guest speaker Ken Magee. Magee, who is currently an Ann Arbor businessman, has worked as a policeman and as an agent in the US Drug Enforcement Agency. About 10 years ago, he had the experience of losing his brother to a heroin overdose.
While working for the DEA in Portland, he became involved with the Oregon Partnership, now called Lines for Life. Like Saline’s task force, it was formed to deal with a drug abuse problem. The group has learned much in their 20 years of dealing with addiction and associated problems. Magee came to share some of their acquired wisdom.
“We will not arrest our way out of a drug problem,” Magee said.
He spoke of a “three-legged stool” that included enforcement, treatment and prevention. Beyond that he suggested that an important fourth leg is education.
“Your main priority is educating adults and parents,” Magee said.
“Some of them are just blind. They don’t want to know it and they don’t want to hear it.”
Magee listed some alarming statistics on the national drug problem. In 2013 there were 24 million people who used illegal substances and of these 2.4 million were new users. A quarter of the young new users said they believed their parents didn’t care.
“There’s a self-denial that a lot of parents have that they don’t think that their kids are involved with drugs and the minute they ultimately find out it’s too late,” Magee said. “They have reached the stages of heroin addiction.”
In addition to education, Magee recommended some ways to get more grants. He encouraged bringing the problem more into the open. Science-based studies on the community would help in preparing grant proposals. College social work departments might be encouraged to send students into the community to do thesis work and provide funding.
Chris Kurtz pointed out the city’s pride about its livability rating and superior schools. He asked Magee whether he felt there would be a pushback against publicizing our drug problems.
“I think the stigma is there and that people want to think that their community is nice and wonderful and safe,” MaGee said. “And that’s what I touched on in the very beginning. I said, ‘get it out there!’ You will be applauded much more in the future. People aren’t going to sit there and say, ‘I am not moving to Saline because I read an article about this.’”
This sentiment is in line with a view expressed previously by Jim Roth, an adjunct member of the task force. He said it’s better to be known as a place that addresses its problems than as a place with no problems.
Magee was critical of the task force for not getting their message out enough. He noted that even the meeting times of the task force are not well publicized. This sparked task force members to discuss various city publications to which drug addiction information could be attached.
Here is a list of upcoming events related to addiction in our community.