Families Against Narcotics (FAN) was born out of a town hall meeting held in 2007--a result of two teen heroin overdoses just weeks apart in the small, middle-class suburban community of Fraser, Michigan. All told, that community suffered 30 overdoses that year. All to heroin. Needing to do something, this determined organization set out to recruit members and educate the public.
"From Despair Came A Ray Of Hope"
A small church in Fraser, Christ United Methodist Church, opened its heart and doors to us. Close to 100 people filled the basement that first night, including grieving families, law enforcement, religious leaders, concerned citizens and several young people working on their own recovery programs. All were angry. All had questions. How is this happening in our community? Why are these good kids from good families using heroin? How do we stop it? Many good questions, few good answers.
But even in the despair, some offered hope. A couple of the young people struggling with addiction in the room stood up and said, "Let us talk to the students. Maybe, just maybe, they'll listen to us." And with that hope, our fledgling organization sprouted wings and took to the community. Within a month, FAN was speaking to every student in Fraser High School. Young people in recovery, parents who lost loved ones, real people sharing real stories. And we haven't stopped sharing our stories since.
Months later, as the stories behind the overdoses began to unfold, we learned that most of these young people started with prescription painkillers--Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet. All opiate-based medications, just like heroin.
Over the past few years, we have heard hundreds of stories like these, in communities across the state. Good kids from good families, all with hopes and dreams. Some continue their daily fight to stay clean, while others have yet to find the strength. Sadly, too many have lost the battle.
A key element of FAN's success is fostering relationships within the recovery community.
Over 50 recovering youth speak for FAN on a regular basis. Their support and willingness to share openly and honestly about their addiction has become an invaluable resource for the entire organization.
Equally important, the service-work opportunities afforded them through FAN have become an integral component of their recovery program. Without them, FAN would not be what it is today. So when a couple of FAN members decided to open a 3/4 house for those seeking recovery, FAN was there to help them get started. We provided basic living necessities and FAN members continue to deliver homemade meals for their Sunday dinners.
In a recent initiative, FAN, in conjunction with the 41B District Drug Court in Macomb County, has developed a program designed to assist young people in the court systems who seek recovery. In part, members of the FAN recovery community become mentors to those in the program, and all drug court participants are required to attend monthly FAN meetings as a way of giving back to the community. This helps to create a stronger recovery support network for all those affected by addiction, provides an opportunity to involve family members in the addiction process, and offers a viable solution that can be replicated in other communities.
In addition to the Macomb County chapter of FAN, there are more than 20 active chapters throughout Michigan, and many more communities have expressed serious interest in starting chapters.