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It was her oldest son’s heroin use that led Lisa Bofka to become an angel, one of a network of volunteers for Hope Not Handcuffs that helps people get into drug treatment. addiction He sits with them while they wait for a car to take them to rehab, offering water and maybe a snack and always a shoulder to lean on.

“I try to be a little mom to everyone,” she said

Bofka, who is 59 and lives in the northern Macomb County community of Richmond, has been involved since 2017, the year she found her son nearly dead from an overdose. He sobered up. And he decided that if there was anything he could do to help others living with addiction, he would do it.

I hope not handcuff intake specialist coordinator Lisa Bofka, 59, of Richmond, works at the call center for those seeking help with substance use disorder at the Clinton Township offices on 22 November 2022. Volunteers come from many backgrounds, some are in recovery.

How many people has Bofka helped to receive treatment? She’s not sure. Maybe 500? There is a young woman who went to rehab several times before finding sobriety. There’s a young man he chased down the street after he decided to drop out of rehab at the last minute; ended up going the next day. There are so many.

There’s also someone he hasn’t been able to help: his middle son. He has been battling addiction to methamphetamine and alcohol. He has been in and out of treatment probably 30 times over the past two years, Bofka said. And maybe that’s also part of why he’s an angel. Seeing others get sober gives him hope that maybe, one day, his middle son will do the same; before Thanksgiving, I was almost 30 days clean.

There aren’t enough people like Bofka, people willing to do what he does. Hope Not Handcuffs is in the midst of a recruitment drive. He has a great need for angels. “We’re starting from scratch,” Bofka said.

The pandemic changed everything

Hope Not Handcuffs is a program run by Families Against Narcotics, a community group, with chapters across the state, that seeks to help and support loved ones of people living with addiction and addicts themselves.

Hope Not Cuffs volunteer Emily Taube, 23, works at the call center for those seeking substance use disorder help at the Clinton Township offices on Nov. 22, 2022. They are known as

When Hope Not Handcuffs started in 2017, it worked like this: People could show up at a participating police department — there are about 125 — that agreed not to arrest them on drug or paraphernalia charges and ask officers to call Hope Not Handcuffs. on his behalf An angel would meet with them and stay with them until they were placed in treatment, or at least keep in touch with them if there were no openings for treatment that day.

All this changed during the pandemic. Law enforcement agencies closed their lobbies. People who needed help started calling themselves Hope Not Manilles. And now that’s how most people connect, no face-to-face meeting with an angel, no visit to the police department.

Now that the pandemic rules have been relaxed, Kim Baffo, who is the program director of Hope Not Handcuffs, wants to get back to angels meeting people in police departments. “Our program was designed as face-to-face support,” he said. “We know that human-to-human compassion, connection, instills more hope in individuals.”

Adds Bofka: “Sometimes, we’re the only warm hand people have felt in a long time.”

But the number of volunteer angels has dropped from about 300 statewide before the pandemic to about 100 now, and even then, only about 30 of those angels travel for face-to-face meetings. The staffing shortages affecting businesses are also affecting the ranks of volunteers.

Hope Not Cuffs volunteers Emily Taube, 23, left, and Anthony Elia, 28, of Warren, work at the call center for those seeking substance use disorder help in offices of Clinton Township on November 22, 2022.

The angel training lasts about 90 minutes and includes instruction on rehabilitation terminology, tips for giving hope to the person seeking help (be a good listener, don’t judge) and the details of the Hope Not Cuffs program. Angels must also pass a background check.

“We couldn’t hire enough people to do an angel’s job,” Baffo said. “Our angels are at the root of all our programs.”

“Save a life a day”

Within a year of becoming a volunteer angel, Bofka had a full-time job at Hope Not Handcuffs. He still goes out to run angels. He also oversees Hope Not Handcuffs’ new call center in Clinton Township, which has a staff of five and receives about 800 calls a month, compared to about 600 before the pandemic.

He works with Anthony Elia, 28, of Warren, who dedicated his life to helping others with addiction after he ended his own addiction to meth and heroin. He started as an angel.

Hope not Handcuffs intake specialist coordinator Lisa Bofka, 59, of Richmond, left, poses with intake specialists Anthony Elia, 28, of Warren, and Emily Taube, 23 years, of New Baltimore, while working at the call center for those seeking help with substances.  use disorder in Clinton Township offices on November 22, 2022.

And he works with Emily Taube, who is 23, lives in New Baltimore and went through Hope Not Handcuffs several times before getting sober from heroin two years ago. “When I went through Hope Not Manilles, I was immediately treated with such patience, such kindness. …. I remember being blown away.”

Among the angels who helped her: Bofka.

“I love what I do. I absolutely love what I do,” Bofka said. “I keep my phone on all night, all day because if somebody I know and … they ask for help, we’re going to work on it right now. And I do. … I probably will until the day I die.

“My motto is to save a life a day.”

And there’s something else Bofka wants to erase: the stigma associated with addiction. He wants parents to know that they are not responsible for their children’s actions. “We automatically try to fix them. We blame ourselves. That’s how it was with me, at least.” But “it’s nobody’s fault… You shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We didn’t do anything. It’s hard. Some days, it really takes a toll on me emotionally.

“Hopefully, one day, this will all be over.”

For everyone, including your child.

She called Bofka on Dec. 1 and said she was staying at a shelter — she won’t be allowed in her home until she’s six months clean.

He also told her that he was using again.

To contact Hope Not Handcuffs or for more information: 833-202-4673 or hnh@familiesagainstnarcotics.org or familiesagainstnarcotics.org

Source: The Hope Not Handcuffs program helps addicts, but volunteers are needed

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