Owosso police help 28 drug users seek treatment in first two years of Angel Program

It’s a statewide initiative where officers help connect users to treatment, rather than arresting them.
Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
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OWOSSO, Mich. (WJRT) - (9/29/2020) - The opioid epidemic continues to take lives in our communities. Mid-Michigan police departments are doing what they can to help. Many of them are participating in the Angel Program.

It’s a statewide initiative where officers help connect users to treatment, rather than arresting them.

One local agency is celebrating a major achievement with the program.

Owosso Police Chief Kevin Lenkart is reporting 28 people have come through their doors since the Angel Program started two years ago.

A majority of them are now sober and back as productive members of their community.

“Sometimes drug addiction happens in families where people might not expect it. You know it’s one of those diseases that doesn’t know boundaries,” Lead Volunteer Laura Archer said. “Just like any other disease, this is something that we can all help with.”

Recognizing that it is just that – a disease, Archer said, is the first step of breaking down the stigma, helping programs like this be successful.

Since 2018, the Owosso Angel Program has helped people of all ages. Archer said most are young adults, ages 35 and younger.

“We’re not gonna arrest ourselves out of a drug problem,” Chief Lenkart said. “We have to provide the services to the people who want to help themselves. And that’s a key part of the Angel Program, the individual has to come in and say I need help.”

Once they do that, an Angel volunteer, like Archer, is called in to evaluate the person and get them into treatment. It’s the start of helping them get their life back.

“To hear them tell stories about how, you know, that they’re in conversations to maybe get their kids back, or to have visitation rights restored, or that they have a job that they’ve been in for six months now, to hear those success stories might not say much to an average person, but to us, we know what a huge accomplishment they are,” Archer explained.

28 people may not seem like a lot; but for this small town, it’s a big achievement. And, the numbers say so, too. The program has been in Michigan for 4 years. Their work in just the last 2 years ranks Owosso as #5 in the state for participation.

“We’re not going to end the opioid problem in our community. It’s bigger than us,” the Chief added. “But, we’re trying everything we can. And this is one program where we can try and help out those people that need it.”

Archer said the number of volunteers has also doubled in size since the program started. But, they can always use more help.

If you’d like to become a volunteer, call Owosso Police (989( 725-0580.

Once they have enough people, you’ll be trained by Michigan State Police.

Angels don’t ever work by themselves. And, Archer said there is no obligation to be there every time.

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