During the years 2011 to 2016, deaths due to opioid overdose in Washtenaw County have increased. Perhaps more concerning is that the percentage of victims age 21 and younger has also been increasing.
Saline has experienced deaths by overdose, but less appreciated is that there have been 37 emergency room admissions for opioid overdose during this period. This places the 48176 zip code in fifth place out of 11 county zip codes. Moreover, about 26 percent of the admissions from 48176 were 21 or younger, the highest for all zip codes in the county.
These numbers underscore the need for continued efforts in Saline to address the addiction problem. The group assigned to do this met Thursday. They are now called the “Saline Community Addiction Prevention Task Force.”
The group last met on May 26. At that time, they decided to undergo the process of becoming an independent tax-exempt 501c3 organization. They received approval for independence first from the city, then from the state. Obtaining 501c3 status will be a separate process.
Previously the group called itself the Saline Community Substance Abuse Coalition, though the “coalition” part was unofficial. Somehow, in the process of reorganization, the name was changed.
The group discussed whether to keep the new name. They decided the new name was adequate and even though “coalition” is no longer in the name, the group still intends to function like one.
In reviewing the bylaws that had been drawn up by attorney Nick Curcio, the issue arose as to whether members of the task force should be required to be local residents. On a suggestion from member Ken Gilmore, they decided to require that two thirds of the board consist of local residents, i.e., residents living within the Saline School District.
Another issue, one that had been raised by City Council last month, was whether the group needed to include a dissolution plan in their bylaws. Police Chief Larry Hrinik consulted Curcio and was told that there was an adequate dissolution clause in the Articles of Incorporation.
Perhaps the most important business was naming members to the board. The group decided that they should have 9 directors with 3-year terms, set up so that the expirations overlap.
The group selected Janet Dillon, Steve Laatsch and (tentatively) Suzie Antonin for one-year terms, Larry Hrinik, Ken Gilmore and Carole Buhl for two-year terms and Craig Hoeft, Erin Wood and Rosemary Blackman for three-year terms.
The group hopes to operate as a coalition as required by the granting organization, Drug Free Communities. This model requires participation by 12 community sectors.
The 12 sectors are: parents; youth; business community; media; schools; youth-serving organizations; law enforcement agencies; religious or fraternal organizations; civic and volunteer groups; healthcare professionals; state, local or tribal agencies with expertise in the field of substance abuse; other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.
Many of these sectors are represented by the current directors and members, but some sectors remain to be filled. Those wishing to be become involved should call City Hall.
The initial directors will need to be approved by City Council, hopefully at their August 8 meeting. The next meeting of the Saline Community Addiction Prevention Task Force, will be at City Hall on August 25 at 6 p.m.