SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — The Alliance For a Drug-Free Shiawassee is presenting a series of free events during National Prevention Week (May 12-18) to raise awareness about local substance abuse.
Events include a 5K walk, rally and vigil to support fighting the local opioid crisis; a movie documentary that identifies stigma as an obstacle to addressing the opioid crisis; and tours of a teen’s bedroom providing parents with clues as to whether their child may be using drugs.
This is the first time the Alliance has taken advantage of National Prevention Week to highlight local issues.
“We want to raise awareness in our community on the issue of substance abuse, and get more people involved,” said Marlene Webster, who is planning the events with fellow Alliance member Laura Burroughs. “There are 192 people dying in the U.S. every day from opioid overdoses. That’s the equivalent of a plane crashing every day. As a community, we need to stop and be sobered by that fact.”
The week kicks off May 12 with a Happy Mother’s Day Media Blitz on Facebook. Moms from the area will be posting videos in which they talk about reasons not to use drugs or express hope that their children stay drug-free.
May 13 is the Opioid Crisis 5K Walk and Rally and Vigil. Registration takes place from 5:30 to 6 p.m. at Owosso City Hall.
The walk starts at 6 p.m. Participants will take the James Miner River Trail from city hall to the county courthouse in Corunna, where the rally will take place at 7:30 p.m. Shiawassee Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Douglas Chapman, who lost a stepdaughter to drug abuse, will speak.
A candlelight vigil begins after the rally, at dusk.
“As the sun sets, we hope to light some candles and memorialize some of those we’ve lost,” Webster said. “It’s an opportunity for people to express their loss. We really want people to think about the impact drug addiction has.”
The effect of substance addiction goes well beyond the addict, noted Kimber Debelak, director of Recovery Pathways in Corunna, the designated treatment provider for the county’s drug court.
“Our main goal with these events is to continue to have an open, frank discussion about substance abuse, which affects us all — family, community, state and nation,” Debelak said. “We need to be unafraid to talk about it. It’s not pretty, but it’s a conversation we have to have. Addiction is a disease of the brain, just like diabetes is a disease of the pancreas.”
From 2 to 5 p.m. May 18, an open house featuring a number of events will take place at the Owosso Community Players Studio Theater, 114 E. Main St.
First, attendees can watch “Stigmatic: Our Opioid Crisis,” a full-length documentary that explores the opioid crisis, from the beginning to the present.
The film is made up of interviews with people impacted by opiates, from law enforcement and medical professionals to those in recovery.
“Their frank discussions highlight disagreements inside the activist community over controversial new strategies to combat the opioid epidemic,” a statement on the film’s website says. “Each diverse perspective points to an undeniable obstacle at the center of the crisis: stigma.”
Parents who come May 18 can also tour “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a mockup of a teen’s bedroom whose decor includes items intended to conceal substance abuse.
“It’s a guided tour that will help parents recognize things they may not consider that could mean substance abuse,” Burroughs said. “It’s an eye-opening experience for parents, to find out that in the mess of a teen’s room, they could find something to do with drugs.
“It’s not about scaring people; it’s absolutely educating people in what they need to know.”
One pertinent fact is that in Shiawassee County, children are trying drugs at younger and younger ages, according to studies, she said.
“We’re doing these events to raise awareness of these issues in the community,” Burroughs said. “It’s a community problem. Unless you educate people about it, they can’t tap into the resources that are available and we can’t help them.”
During the May 18 open house, which is sponsored by Memorial Healthcare, there will be local agency resource tables and giveaways.
The Alliance For a Drug-Free Shiawassee is composed of nonprofit agencies, health organizations, law enforcement, residents and others.
The group’s mission statement is to mobilize the whole community to create a safe and drug-free environment for our youth.