(Courtesy Photo)

by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

    The newly-formed Shiawassee County Families Against Narcotics (FAN) chapter has been created to assist with providing support and education to the community about the severity of drugs and addiction. Formed by Doug Chapman, the administrative sergeant for the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office, and 35th Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart (left), the group introduced itself to the community on Thursday, Jan. 16 with a community forum at Owosso High School.

   “The reality of drugs and addiction taking over our community needs to come to an end,” explained Sgt. Chapman (right), the chapter’s president. “A group of concerned community organizers came together in realization of the epidemic surrounding drug use in Shiawassee County, and we are here to raise awareness, along with bringing hope that you are not alone in this fight.”

   According to Shiawassee County Health & Wellness, five percent of 7th-graders and 11 percent of high schoolers in Shiawassee County reported taking a prescription drug not prescribed to them within the past month alone. Additionally, approximately 85 percent of crimes committed in Shiawassee County are drug-related.

   There is a wide range of organizations and government agencies operating in the area that help recovering drug addicts, and these resources are widely utilized in Shiawassee County to treat and reform criminals with drug abuse problems. Unfortunately, this vast support network is not as easily accessible for non-criminal drug users, who often do not know these resources exist, or how to access them. The county’s new FAN chapter seeks to bridge that gap.

   The Shiawassee County FAN chapter will be working with other organizations in the community to battle this epidemic by supporting and providing resources to individuals seeking help but who are not currently in the criminal justice system. The group also welcomes family members and will provide the community with support, education and resources to help with this ever growing problem.

   For Sgt. Chapman, the drug epidemic hits close to home, and through his work with FAN, the Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) program and the Shiawassee County Drug Court, among others, the 26-year law enforcement veteran is among the county’s leaders in the fight against drug abuse.

   “When we started the DEFY program three years ago, my main ambition was the loss of my step-daughter, who died from a heroin overdose in 2016,” shared Sgt. Chapman. “And once I got involved with the drug court, I learned that everything about this whole opioid epidemic is, you’ve got to have resources. When this happened to me, I didn’t have any of those resources.

   “When we were dealing with my step-daughter’s struggle with addiction, I only had law enforcement, and that’s all I knew,” explained Sgt. Chapman. “Of course, that was really at the beginning of the epidemic, and at that time law enforcement really only provided resources for drug users who had broken the law. And since my step-daughter didn’t break the law, we were just dumbfounded about how to get help. I felt useless that I did not know what to do, what resources there were. That’s why I got so involved, to make sure that, in the future, people are able to get the help they need to save their life, or the life of their loved one.”

   Joining Sgt. Chapman to comprise the Shiawassee County FAN chapter’s slate of officers is Judge Stewart as vice president, Jane Brown, from the Owosso Public Schools, as treasurer, and Jessica Glenn, from Recovery Pathways, as secretary.

   Judge Stewart and Sgt. Chapman have sought to expand the reach of the chapter by partnering with as many local organizations as possible. In response, they have received support and/or commitments from Shiawassee County Prosecuting Attorney Deanna Finnegan, defense attorney Matt McKone, Dr. Morrone from Pathways, Shiawassee County Health Director Larry Johnson and Liz Brown, who works with Sgt. Chapman in drug court, as well as former Michigan State Police trooper Amy Belanger, who now works for the Flint office of the FBI. Sgt. Chapman also hopes to add a local police officer and a representative from Memorial Healthcare to the team.

   The local FAN chapter will be holding open forums throughout the county in the coming weeks and months for the community to participate and learn about how to stop this epidemic, and to provide a strong support network for individuals and their families. The group will meet on the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at Owosso High School, which is located at 765 E. North St. in Owosso. Anyone wishing to participate, or those seeking help, are encouraged to attend.

   For more information, or for anyone wishing to seek help from the group anonymously, send an email to shiawassee@familiesagainstnarcotics.org. The local chapter can also be found on social media by searching for “Shiawassee Families Against Narcotics.”

Shiawassee Families Against Narcotics Chapter Formed was last modified: January 20th, 2020 by Karen Elford