Drug Battle: Abuse experts host awareness event

HARRIS – Those who deal with drug abusers in hospitals, schools and court recently had opportunity to hear from experts in the field. The “One-day Drug Awareness Conference” took place at the Island Resort & Casino Conference Center in Harris Friday.

“This is to raise awareness of drugs and to know what to look for including the symptoms of addictions,” said Kelly Arnold, prevention specialist with Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties, one of the sponsors of the conference.

The Hannahville 2 Percent Grant program funded the event, which was attended by medical personnel, school staff, courthouse employees, and others who deal with abusers and addicts of drugs including alcohol, said Arnold.

Participants came from Delta, Schoolcraft, Menominee, Alger and Marquette counties to hear presentations from five speakers invited by the Substance Abuse and Violence Education (SAVE) Council of Delta County.

First to speak about drug abuse was Det. Lt. Tim Sholander, commander of the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, also known as UPSET. He addressed what law enforcement, emergency responders and home health care workers should be aware of and look for in regards to drug abuse including hazardous meth labs.

Shawn Hatch, director of Clinical Services and Behavioral Health at Marquette General Hospital, updated participants in drug additions and available treatments. She said substance abuse in the region is higher than the state average which is above the national average.

Drug trends in the Upper Peninsula involve abuse of prescription drugs, pain medications, and heroine, she added, noting drug abuse is a disease that can be treated.

Theresa Chenier, a registered nurse from the obstetrics and nursery department at OSF St. Francis Hospital, spoke to the group on babies born with addictions because their mothers were drug users.

She talked about symptoms of addict babies and how the hospital is allowed to medically treat them for their drug dependency.

Evelyn Norkooli, a registered nurse and manager of OSF’s emergency services department, addressed the abuse of pain medications which can lead to misuse, overdose and death. Drug sources include doctor prescriptions, family and friends, and drug dealers.

Norkooli said the battle against pain medication abuse needs to be a group effort fought by medical personnel prescribing pills as well as the community which must secure prescriptions from potential abusers including youth.

The final speaker spoke about the impact of substance abuse on suicide. Daniel Doyle, an instructor at Bay College, a former mental health administrator and counselor, and a member of the Delta County Task Force for the Alliance Against Violence and Abuse, addressed “self murder.”

Doyle offered a variety of statistics about suicide such as 35,000 suicides occur each year in the nation including 20 veterans a day and 11 youth a day. He gave reasons why people attempt or commit suicide such as illness, depression, a crisis in a relationship, or loss of work.

Signs and symptoms of a suicidal person include increased drug use and abuse, being bullied or bullying others, giving away possessions, saying goodbye to family and friends, a change in appetite, and difficulty in concentrating.

Doyle said if someone is suspected to be suicidal, action should be taken to determine where they are at with suicide so they can get the resources and treatment they need.

He noted that the number one drug of choice for suicide is alcohol.