The Grand Rapids Community College Police Department partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. State Attorney’s Office to host an on-campus screening of the documentary film “Chasing the Dragon” on Thursday, March 30.
This was an effort to educate and raise awareness of increased opium and opiate abuse in Grand Rapids and throughout the state. The film title is a reference to the never-ending pursuit of heroin and opiate addicts to achieve the original and/or ultimate high they get from the substance the first time.
The documentary features a diverse group of people affected by painkillers, including oxycontin, vicodin and heroin. Former abusers who’ve turned clean talked about their experience and the consequences of abusing painkillers and heroin. Parents of children who’ve overdosed and died on the drugs were also interviewed.
After the film concluded, a panel of experts took questions from the audience and discussed ways of combating drug abuse of opioid and opiate drugs.
The questions ranged from asking about how marijuana leads to people advancing to using more powerful drugs, as well as how to educate and spread the word about prevention of drug use in the workplace.
FBI Public Relations Associate of Michigan Tim Wiley thought the presentation “was very well spoken and delivered,” and said he hoped the audience was able to leave the event with a better understanding of the epidemic that is sweeping the state.
“For us to put together a group of people that can speak about factual issues surrounding this epidemic was good,” Wiley said. “That way we can separate fact from fiction because that’s important.”
GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman was in attendance as well and said she is ready to get information out to students about this problem, as well as offer resources to students and faculty battling this issue in some form or another.
“As they talked about, prevention is key as well as putting a stop to this epidemic, so the more we can get the message out to our students and our staff to understand that this is a problem … and understand how addictive these prescribed drugs can be, the better the situation is,” Whitman said.
Whitman is currently working to partner with the DEA to create a safe way for students and staff to dispose of medication that could be dangerous in the home.
“I’m going to follow up with our partners at the DEA to find out how we can participate in their upcoming Drug Take Back program,” Whitman said. “The Grand Rapids Police Department has a permanent Drug Take Back box at their location downtown and it’s only a few blocks from here, but at the same time, with the numbers of our population, if it would be more convenient for our staff, or faculty, or our students to drop it off here, I am all for it.”
The Drug Take Program provides places where people can safely and securely dispose of unused medication at a dropoff location.
Whitman anticipates more opportunities for education on this issue and resources for students to access.
“This would be something we’d do in conjunction with the (GRCC) Police Department, along with our Student Affairs and Student Life office, as well as the Human Resources Department,” Whitman said. “We have services offered with the counseling office, we have different representatives from around Kent County that offer different resources and we try to keep it as an ongoing awareness campaign … anything we can do and anything we see as a good program to bring awareness to is just some of what we can do for students and faculty.”
If students, or faculty are interested in getting involved with this issue, they are encouraged to contact the Student Life Office at 616-234-4160 or contact Whitman at 616-234-4010.