Rally aimed at increasing awareness of drug epidemic


United to Face Addiction-Michigan (UFAM) is hosting an all-day rally at the state Capitol in Lansing on Thursday, June 2 to raise awareness of the drug epidemic across the country and to press for solutions.

“There are so many things that need to change — at a policy level and also in terms of public perception — for us to effectively address the growing addiction problem and stop the deaths,” said Lauren Rousseau, one of the rally organizers. Rousseau is a professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills and sits on the board of directors of two nonprofit organizations focused on addiction treatment and substance abuse prevention.

UFAM’s mission, Rousseau said, is to bring together the many grassroots organizations, recovery community organizations, prevention and treatment organizations, and other stakeholders in the addiction/recovery world to pursue common goals where a unified approach will have the greatest impact. 

“There is stigma associated with addiction that has prevented its treatment as a health issue and has created barriers to recovery,” Rousseau said.  “Historically, we have treated addiction as a crime, and public perception and government policy reflect this view. People are afraid to admit they’re struggling with this disease and treatment resources are inadequate to meet the need.  We are losing a whole generation of young people to opioid and heroin addiction.”

Jeannie Richards, president of Bryan’s Hope, a nonprofit organization focused on opiate education and substance use prevention, said all addiction and recovery organizations are invited to the event “as well as any and all Michigan citizens who are concerned about our addiction crisis.”

Other organizations partnering with UFAM to bring this rally to Lansing include MiHOPE, Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, St John Providence, Foundations Recovery Network, Home of New Vision, Capitol Area Project Vox, Personalized Nursing Lighthouse and Recovery Allies of Western Michigan.

The rally is scheduled to get underway 9 a.m. and will continue all day.

Speakers will include Jodie Debbrecht Switalski, a lawyer, former sobriety court judge and senior associate with the Stutman Group.

“People struggling with this disease need to know that recovery is possible,” Masi said, who himself is in long-term recovery from addiction. “They need to know that life after addiction can be wonderful, exciting and fulfilling.”

Addiction “is a disease of isolation,” Masi said. “Stigma keeps people from seeking help and keeps people in recovery from speaking out. One important goal of this rally is to show people struggling with this disease and their families that there are a whole lot of people who understand, who care, and who have made it to the other side — to recovery.”   


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