SW Michigan volunteer group fighting back against opioid addiction

NOW: SW Michigan volunteer group fighting back against opioid addiction

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich.-The widespread abuse of prescription drugs has turned into an opioid crisis, hitting several states, including Michigan.

In 2015 alone, nearly 2,000 Michiganders died of an overdose. But, one Southwestern Michigan coalition is taking action to help manage the crisis.

“I am the proud parent of three wonderful children,” said Amy Jonatzke, President of the Southwest Michigan Families Against Narcotics chapter.

“We were your typical family mother father three kids you know church on Sundays, camping, vacations together,” Jonatzke said.

But Amy Jonatzke’s family was about to face a crisis. Their lives forever changed because of an epidemic that has shattered so many.

“Never did I know that one of my children would suffer from substance abuse disorder,” Jonatzke said.

Her 24 year-old son Austin, started abusing heroin at the age of 17. Her son suffered 4 overdoses.

“Fortunately, my son is here and in recovery and was able to celebrate his birthday with him in May,” Jonatzke said.

Austin’s fight inspired the family to educate themselves on addiction and substance abuse by turning to Families Against Narcotics, an organization that aims to remove the stigma associated with addiction through education.

Fast forward to today. She’s now the President of Southwestern Michigan’s chapter and wants other families to learn what she discovered.

“Berrien County is the second highest in fatalities in overdose deaths in Southwestern Michigan,” Jonatzke said.

“A lot of what happens is people start going to the doctor. 1 in 5 physician visits end up in a prescription with an opioid and if somebody is continuing to use that opioid a lot of people are misusing them,” Jonatzke said.

FAN also teaches the community about Michigan’s “Good Samaritan law.”

Officially signed in 2016, the law exempts anyone in Michigan from prosecution if they report an overdose from an illegal substance or seek medical attention for themselves.

Amy keeps a Naxolone, or Narcan kit, in her purse.

She’d like to see others have one on hand, in hopes that any bystander would speak up so other lives won’t be lost.

Here's more information on the kits they distribute:

“This is not a moral decision, this is a medical disease nobody wants to suffer from this, “ Jonatzke said. “It can hit anybody.”

On Thursday evening, the Southwest Michigan FAN chapter and the Voice Change Hope Alliance is sponsoring a free prescription opioid and heroin overdose prevention education.

Those that complete the training will receive a free Naxolone kit.

It’s happening at the Tyron School Community Center. 910 East John Beers Road in Saint Joe, Michigan.

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