SIDNEY — The battle against the opioid crisis in Sidney is personal for Sidney Police Officer Mike McRill. He wants to save everyone who has a drug addiction.
“The people who are overdosing are someone’s son, daughter, brother sister,” said McRill, who is a member of the Sidney Addict Assistance Team.
“In January 2016, Jerry (Tangeman) and I went to the Attorney General’s Office. There was a program in Lucas County that after a person overdoses, they (team members) follow up with the addict and encourage them to get help. Members on the team are counselors, paramedics and police officers.”
The team was implemented in Sidney and McRill has been busy ever since.
“In August 2016, following a funeral I attended, the family called me and said their niece needs help.”
With that call, McRill was off and running. Since then he’s compiled a list and followups with each of the addicts.
“The years 2016-17 were a busy time for overdoses,” said McRill. “We were looking for funding to help with the program and the Chief (Will Balling) got us a grant.”
With the grant, Becky Drinnen was hired as coordinator of the program. She works 24 hours a week and with this extra assistance, more visits to those in need have been added.
A drug and alcohol counselor from the Shelby County Counseling Center is a member of the team.
“The grant allows us to have those services for five hours a week.”
McRill said on Wednesdays and Fridays he “goes out looking for addicts.”
“A week over they overdose, I give them my talk and information,” said McRill. “It used to be that was the last time I saw them.
“Now we can coordinate followup with them,” said McRill. “We visit them when they overdose and on day 40, day 90 and day 180. So that’s four times we have contact with them. If they didn’t already get help, we encourage them to get help.”
Drinnen joined the team in January. A resident of Sidney, she was employed in a business dealing with exports. She became an expert as analyzing data for the company. She is also a volunteer with CASA.
“I got knowledge with CASA on how big an issue this is in Sidney,” said Drinnen. “The community, law enforcement and families are all impacted by this.”
Balling said when Drinnen was hired, he knew they needed someone who could analyze the numbers related to the drug epidemic.
“Mike is compassionate with the addicts,” said Balling.”If she can arrange their schedule and if we save one person’s life, then it’s been worth it. We can combine her strengths with Mike’s for everyone’s benefit.”
Drinnen is also working with the Shelby County Drug Task Force in designing their website.
One of the first people she met was someone McRill had first gave information to last summer.”
With her visits unannounced, Drinnen is able to get counseling for the addict immediately.
“There’s no delay,” said Drinnen. “I’m right here and I can schedule the appointment and tell them what to bring with them to the appointment. Then I call and remind them of the appointment.”
“Things that are not overwhelming to us can be overwhelming to an addict,” said McRill. “To an addict, a tiny bump is an insurmountable event. We want to make their recovery progress a little easier.”
Since the program started in 2016, there have been 183 contacts made because of overdoses.Twenty-nine people/family members have called McRill asking him for help. He’s had six officer referrals and nine co-contacts where McRill is talking to an addict and they ask him to talk to a friend or a relative of theirs.
The police department received a two-year grant for $43,750 from the AG’s office for Drinnen’s position. In 2018, she is working 24 hours a week. On July 1, her hours will go down to 13 per week.
“We want to put ourselves out of business,” said McRill. Reports are run weekly to see how many overdoses there were. In a four week period, from the end of 2017 to the first part of 2018, there were no overdoses reported in Sidney.
In 2016, said McRill, the state adopted the Good Samaritan Act, which says if an person who overdoses gets help within 30 days, they won’t be charged. Locally, in 2017, 60 people used the Good Samaritan Act when they overdosed. Twenty-two sought treatment
“It’s not a free pass,” said McRill. “We’re giving you a way to get help and we’re acknowledging that we can do more.”
Some families, said McRill, have Narcan kits at their homes because they have relatives who are addicts.
“Some people received them through a pharmacy,” said McRill. “I’ve talked to several addicts who have Narcan. “One woman had it for friends then she OD’d after being clean for two years. She’s been up to the two year mark several times. She’s told me that she feels like she’s got her addiction beat and then the loneliness gets to her because she can’t hang out with her old crew.”
And some people, he said, don’t want to hang out with a recovering addict.
“It’s a self-worth issue,” said Drinnen.
“They feel their not as worthy as the rest of us,” said McRill. “Becky and I took her to a facility in Toledo for help.
“I’m 52 years old,” said Drinnen. “I still believe in fairy tales.”
And her fairy tale is for the recovering addict to stay clean, and have a home with a white picket fence.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.