Families Against Narcotics (FAN) Eradicating Addiction One Community at a Time

Opiate addiction is at epidemic levels in the United States with one person dying every 12 minutes to overdose.  It touches the hearts and lives of many families. Families Against Narcotics (FAN) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by empowering individuals and communities to prevent and eradicate addiction.

For more than seven years, FAN has been dedicated to the communities we serve providing support, education, advocacy, and stigma reduction in the context of prescription drug and heroin addiction and recovery.

FAN is a grassroots organization started by a handful of concerned citizens following the immense loss of life in the summer of 2007 due to heroin overdoses among young people. Two individuals overdosed in Fraser during this period and were the proverbial straws that broke the collective back of the community. Together, in the basement of a local church near Fraser High School, family members, political and law enforcement officials, concerned citizens, and a handful of young recovering addicts decided something must be done. FAN was born.  

Fraser High School, where there was a notable problem with prescription drug and heroin misuse and abuse, was courageous enough to implement a pilot program that consisted of recovering addicts and family members who have suffered loss due to overdose, speaking to students in health classes. Real people telling real stories was the mantra. Students responded in a significant way; overdose deaths in Fraser dropped at a remarkable rate. Simultaneously, the leaders in FAN were presenting at community events that were tagged “Drug Awareness Nights” throughout Macomb County and beyond, fortifying the sentiment that there was an epidemic spreading through communities affecting young people at an alarming rate.

From this small beginning, FAN’s message spread like wildfire. As individuals and communities began to recognize and gather the courage to acknowledge the problem of prescription drug and heroin misuse and overdose, FAN started receiving requests from multiple communities to open chapters in order to make an impact throughout Michigan.  FAN speaks in over 200 venues a year and our program has impacted over 10,000 individuals throughout the State.

Inevitably, our message began to spread from the base of the community into more specialized professions and organizations. FAN was a trendsetter in demanding better education among prescribing physicians in our communities. Subsequently, we partnered with Henry Ford Hospital in Macomb County to educate prescribers and began to affect change at a larger, more fundamental level.  
We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from individuals and organizations that we have presented to and partnered with in order to spread our message. Our message is one of extreme caution and magnificent peril; if nothing changes, we are losing almost 50,000 people a year to drug overdose. However, we are full of hope and believe that we can change the objectionable situation in which we find ourselves; we have in fact begun to do so in Macomb County with Operation Rx and will continue on until we have made a difference in each community throughout Michigan. There is recovery for families and individuals that are afflicted with this deplorable illness as well as steps that can be taken to change the tide that is this epidemic.

FAN has spearheaded an initiative in Macomb County named Operation Rx, in conjunction with many other community partners, which will change the way we perceive and address addiction. Operation Rx is the future of community-based solutions in the prevention of abuse, addiction and overdose.

First, we brought each major community sector to the table to discuss changes that will result in best practices for their respective sphere of influence.  Community partners include the Public Health Department, Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse, CARE of Southeastern Michigan, Macomb County Sherriff’s Office, Henry Ford Hospital Macomb, McLaren Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, St. John’s Hospital, as well as leaders in education, veterans, legislative officials, and many others.  

Next, FAN has enabled and facilitated an environment in which these different sectors have been removed from their individual silos and have been brought together to engage in rich dialogue with a focus on integrating with one another so that the community may realize a positive comprehensive change in opiate misuse, abuse, and overdose.

Furthermore, soon after its inception, Operation Rx began to develop policy and procedures around the distribution and use of Naloxone, an opiate overdose reversal drug. Less than one month after our initial meeting, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office implemented a program that brought Naloxone into its 81 vehicles and saved three lives. FAN and Operation Rx have since received a grant of 200 EVZIO auto-injectors for the purpose of saving individuals lives from overdose and are working diligently to dispense them to first responders and community members in need.  The program has also ignited hospitals, doctors and dentist to change their prescribing protocols.

Today, Families Against Narcotics has reached a level that each day grows beyond our expectations and comprehension.

Throughout each of our communities, change is possible, recovery is real. We are your sons and your daughters, your brothers and your sisters, and your family and friends across the state. We are your students and teachers, your doctors and dentists, CEOs, judges, and politicians. Each of us has been affected by this brutal condition. We have been beaten down and lifted up, but we have recovered; we are here to stay and make a positive change in the world.

Andrew Fortunato
Executive Director, FAN, Inc.

For more information about FAN, visit http://www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/