Earlier this year, the Partnership presented at the 2018 National Rx and Heroin Abuse Summit in Atlanta. Our presentation, “Empowering Families: How to Address a Loved One’s Opioid Use and Becoming a Family Advocate,” addressed how to identify of opioid misuse, explored the obstacles families encounter when seeking treatment and highlighted our free resources and tools to empower parents and caregivers.
In the audience was Sgt. Tony Winstead, a retired military service reserve with 23 years of duty, five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and a former supervisor for the Mt. Pleasant Police Department’s Narcotics Unit in South Carolina.
During his time in the Narcotics Unit, Winstead was tasked with launching investigations into local drug cases. One case was a seventeen-year-old teen who was in his local emergency room after a heroin overdose. Tony worked with him in a law enforcement capacity, but after a few months, he discovered the teen died of an overdose just two days after being released from an inpatient treatment facility.
“It was at that point that I decided I wanted to do something to help individuals with their addiction because our jurisdiction was beginning to experience a huge spike in overdoses and deaths relating to overdoses,” Winstead said.
Soon after, Mt. Pleasant’s Police Department began to develop its First Step Program, an advocate-driven community collaborative that focuses on an individual’s recovery, and it was during these early planning stages that Winstead attended the Summit and our presentation.
“It was the Q&A session where I got to hear mother, after mother, after mother, and their horrible experiences dealing with bureaucracy, red tape, bad treatment centers and the list goes on,” he said.
The Partnership’s focus on helping and empowering families inspired Tony to switch the goal of the First Step Program. Originally targeted to support individuals struggling with substance use, it now also provides resources for parents and families who are impacted by a loved one’s addiction. The First Step Program also aims to help educate parents about opioid misuse and abuse, substance use disorders and treatment options, while encouraging parents to be involved in their child’s recovery.
Winstead credits the Partnership for helping to shape the First Step Program. He continues to connect the families he works with to our Parent Helpline, which he says is the program’s most beneficial and utilized tool.
“The families that stand beside their loved one and battle addiction everyday deserve all the help and resources our community can provide.”
Sgt. Winstead currently serves as the supervisor of Mt. Pleasant Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit.