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Confronting reality: A&E's 'Intervention' casts light on local drug problem

September 27, 2012
By Jason Raiche - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Substance abuse in Delta County was brought to light for many local residents during a recent episode of a popular cable television series.

"Intervention," a TV series on A&E, featured an Escanaba family's intervention with their daughter regarding her addiction to bath salts, cocaine and other stimulants. According to the show, the young woman had been in jail three times in the past five years on drug charges and had been hospitalized twice due to drug overdoses.

Her family confronted her with a professional interventionist through the show and ultimately got her to seek help. "Intervention" offered the woman treatment in Florida, and according to the end of the episode, after she left treatment early and relapsed, she re-entered treatment at another facility in Florida and has been sober since July 31.

The girl's mother, Kristi, said her daughter remains sober and is currently in a "redemption house" in Florida, where she is doing "very well."

However, she will not return to the area - her mother says she fears that if she did, she may fall back into the same pattern.

"We're encouraging her and helping her stay out of the area so she can start a new life and have another chance," said Kristi.

Fact Box

Substance abuse resources

Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

Substance abuse services are also available through Great Lakes Recovery Centers, which can be reached via 1 (888) 457-2732.

Catholic Social Services, (906) 786-7212,

NorthCare's Central Diagnostic and Referral, for those seeking substance abuse services in need of financial assistance, at 1 (800) 305-6564.

The mother said she had reached out to "Intervention" for help because when her daughter was in and out of hospitals, she was told there was nothing that could be done.

"They ("Intervention") saved her life and they brought our family closer together and brought her dad back into her life," said Kristi. "It was all positive."

Kristi said it's sad to see people who don't have help, since some who struggle with addictions do not have families to help or advocate on their behalf.

She noted that it's important for the community to be aware that substance abuse problems are not uncommon in this area, and suggested advice for anyone facing a similar issue with a loved one of their own.

"Don't stay silent about it," she said. "Reach out. Don't be afraid to reach out as far as you have to."

Mary Claire Massi-Lee, program director of alcohol and other drug assessment services at Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties, said substance abuse in this area is not unusual and is a huge problem.

"In general, it's become a bigger and bigger problem over the years," said Massi-Lee. "It's really progressed."

Through talking with different people, she finds they are surprised with how often substance abuse problems occur in this area. One problem with substance abuse, she said, is that it can also lead to users committing other crimes.

Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden agrees.

"Drug abuse is a huge concern of ours, as it often times leads to many other crimes," he said. "We find that many crimes are committed while people are under the influence of drugs, or users and addicts are committing crimes to support the financial needs of their next drug purchase."

Vanderlinden said Public Safety, along with the Delta County Sheriff's Department, have remained proactive in fighting against the drug problem - particularly through their participation in the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) and their continued narcotics K-9 program.

"There are six departments that provide personnel to the UPSET team and having two of them come from our area demonstrates our level of commitment to not only the team, but to our battle against illegal drugs," he said.

As for the show, Massi-Lee said "Intervention" seems to be a pretty accurate portrayal of the drug problem in the Escanaba area.

"There's been a real change in the trend of what types of drugs are being used over the years, so it is pretty accurate at this time of what's going on out there," she said, noting that the substance abuse problems in this area vary from alcohol to opiate-type drugs, heroin to bath salts - which is one of the newest problems.

Vanderlinden agrees the show may be an accurate portrayal of someone suffering from substance abuse.

"I have to believe it's an accurate portrayal of the individual, but I do not by any means feel it's an accurate portrayal of our community in whole," he said. "Certainly there are citizens that abuse drugs and battle with addiction on a daily basis and to portray Escanaba as a community with no drug problems would be misleading. Having said that, the drug problem here is not worse than other communities throughout the Upper Peninsula."

Massi-Lee noted that interventions like those on the show are helpful in substance abuse situations, and that A&E's portrayal of an intervention was pretty accurate of how it typically works. Though it does not have to be a formal sit-down with that loved one, she said any kind of intervention or confrontation where a family or someone else addresses a loved one's drug or alcohol abuse helps.

For those who are suffering from substance abuse, Massi-Lee said the health department only offers alcohol and drug assessments, but there are some places they can turn to for support such as Narcotics Anonymous, or for alcohol abusers, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon. Substance abuse services are also available through Great Lakes Recovery Centers, which can be reached via 1 (888) 457-2732. She said some other organizations that can provide help are Catholic Social Services, at 786-7212, or NorthCare's Central Diagnostic and Referral, for those seeking substance abuse services but are in need of financial assistance, at 1 (800) 305-6564.



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