GREENVILLE — On a day that should have been a joyous occasion, Tami Monks made a phone call that no parent would wish on their own worst enemy.
It was Feb. 8, her birthday, a day that should be celebrated with cake, gifts and warm wishes from family. But Tami had run out of options with her daughter, Casey.
Against all her desires and hating herself in the process, Tami picked up the phone and called the police.
“Come pick up my daughter,” she said.
What could possibly bring a parent to point of calling the authorities on their own child?
Casey was using heroin.
She was an addict, and after months of lying, stealing and failing to work on a solution, her mother saw no other choice. There was a warrant out for Casey’s arrest, and Tami called it in. She put her daughter in jail.
“I felt like the worst mom in the world,” Tami said. “But I knew she’d be safe there.”
It wasn’t long before mother and daughter stood in front of a judge together and Casey discovered how difficult she had made things for Tami.
“I stood in front of the judge and said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do this anymore, I don’t have anything left,’” Tami recalled.
That was the day Casey admits she hit rock bottom. She finally realized what she had put herself through, and her family as well.
Since that day in court, Casey, now 18 years old, has remained sober while in recovery for more than eight months. She graduated from Greenville High School last June.
Casey and Tami are now closer than they ever have been. The mother and daughter are doing whatever they can to prevent a similar scenario from playing out for anyone else.
“I don’t want anybody else to be that parent that finds out that your child is addicted to heroin, getting that phone call that they’re either in jail or dead,” Tami said. “She’s my amazing daughter who’s now eight months clean. I refuse to give up on her, or on anyone.”
It is with a renewed spirit and mentality that both Tami and Casey were in attendance for a parent forum on drug awareness and prevention Wednesday evening at Greenville High School. Approximately 30 people were in the crowd, including students and parents.
The forum was hosted by the Montcalm Recovery and Integrated Services of Care (RISC) organization in conjunction with Greenville High School.
Assistant Principal Todd Oatley said the reality of today is that drug use is a growing problem and parents need to be aware of how to prevent their children from falling through the cracks.
“This is a serious issue and I’m convinced that a lot of us are guilty at times — we put our heads in the sand and don’t think it is happening here,” Oatley said. “We don’t think it is affecting us personally. But no matter how clean your family might be or how little trouble you might have directly from this stuff, the ripple effect of what is going on in communities like this is that it does affect you. The ripple effect will hit you in some way.”
Heroin use on the rise
Greenville Department of Public Safety Det. Chad Aniszko said the main problem drug in Greenville is currently heroin, which he says has seen an increase in use in recent years.
“Heroin is becoming much more popular nowadays,” Aniszko said. “We’ve seen a huge increase in the city of Greenville, Montcalm County, Belding, Ionia County and into Kent County. It was always one of those dark, secret narcotics. It went away for a while, but now it’s back.”
According to Aniszko, in the past month alone in Greenville there have been four overdoses of young adults, including one teenager. He said the recent surge in the popularity of heroin is due to its relatively cheap price in comparison to other drugs.
“Cutting agents are being combined with the drug to lower the price,” he said.
Those cutting agents include prescription narcotics such as Vicodin, codeine or other prescriptions that contain narcotics.
“They mix it up, and in doing so, it turns the heroin to a brown form,” Aniszko said. “It’s still heroin, but it’s much more potent and dangerous.”
Aniszko said the new mixture of heroin has led to more overdoses.
“Now we have a bunch of amateurs who think they can do this in their own bathroom, but they are not doing it correctly,” he said. “Now their kids are getting ahold of it and they don’t know what they are doing.”
Aniszko said with heroin being a growing problem, the department is trying to get the word out to parents that heroin is out there and children have access.
“From what we are told from a lot of different people involved with drugs right now, people continue to bury their heads in the sand,” he said. “We need to really talk to our children and be a part of their life.”
Signs of heroin use
Aniszko said signs of heroin use could include errant spoons laying around a home. The heroin mixture is placed on the spoon, heated and turned into a liquid form to be injected into the blood stream via a syringe.
Another indicator is “small crinkled up pieces of paper” that Aniszko described as being similar to Keno sheets found in gas stations and bars.
“When you’re going through your children’s pockets doing laundry, you might start finding these crinkled up pieces of paper,” he said. “It’s so small and powdery, you could mistake it for lint.”
The third indicator, is “small baggies.”
“Users will put the heroin in the end of a sandwich bag, rip it off and then tie it,” Aniszko said.
As far as physical signs of use on a person, Aniszko said there are several.
“Some of the signs and symptoms to look for, they become very skinny because their adrenaline is flowing,” he said. “(Heroin) speeds up their metabolism. Faces will sink in a little bit, their cheeks will become a little more prominent and their eyes will sink in.
Aniszko also said to look for “track marks,” or dots “all over the arms” that indicate drug use via a needle.
Approaching your children
Leigha Compson, a clinician with Wedgwood Christian Services, said the most important step in preventing drug use among children is for parents to create an environment at home where communication is normal and frequent.
“By talking to our kids, we can make a difference,” Compson said. “It’s about creating a family environment, a positive one, that encourages open dialog.”
Compson said spending time together as a family is a big step in the right direction toward helping create that environment.
“Spend time with your children, have a family night or eat dinner together,” she said. “Show the kids that you are interested in them. Ask them about their interests, ask about their day, get to know their friends. What you’re doing by asking those questions is expressing to them that you care about them.”
Compson said that parental supervision is key in pointing children in the right direction.
“Supervision is very important. If you’ve got kids up to 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning in the basement laughing, staying up late, make an excuse to see them,” she said. “Make a batch of cookies and bring them down as an excuse to check in with them.”
Most importantly, Compson said parents need to set expectations and serve as good role models for their children.
According to Compson, the leading gateway to major drug use begins with the abuse of prescription drugs, which most children can find in their own home.
“It’s really important as parents to explain to children what your values are, as well as expectations for them when it comes to using drugs and alcohol,” she said. “We need to be really good role models for medication use. Even if it’s taking aspirin for a headache, demonstrate that you are following the guidelines and that you are following up with your doctor.”
Haven Ward, a mother of two Greenville High School students and a recovering drug addict herself, encouraged the audience to walk away from Tuesday’s community forum with a message of awareness and strength, as opposed to feelings of intimidation.
“The bottom line is, drugs are here and your kids have access to them,” Ward said. “This isn’t an inner city problem anymore, drugs have made their way to the smaller towns. We’re not trying to scare you, we’re not trying to freak you out, we just want you to know what’s here. Help is out there.”
Drug awareness and prevention resources
Law enforcement and tip lines
Central Michigan Enforcement Team (CMET) 1-800-342-0406
Greenville Department of Public Safety (616) 754-9161
Montcalm County Central Dispatch (989) 831-8500
Michigan Drug Rehab and Treatment Programs Montcalm County 1-877-527-1491