Randy Field kicked off his term as leader of the Farmington/Farmington Hills Call to Action Coalition (CTAC) on Friday morning at an annual breakfast attended by about 100 elected officials, law enforcement officers and community volunteers at Vladimir's banquet center in Farmington Hills.
In its 23rd year, the event's theme was "It Begins with Me," taken from a piece of art Field found at Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak on Labor Day weekend.
Field takes over for Estralee Michaelson, who stepped down in June, when her position as director of safe schools for Farmington Public Schools was eliminated. Michaelson had founded the nonprofit coalition to "break the silence" and address the pain caused by alcohol and drug addiction and domestic violence, according to an organization brochure.
Friday's breakfast meeting drew a lower-than-usual attendance, organizers said. Field acknowledged that this year's crowd was smaller, and he attributed that to the "financial challenges" throughout the community.
Field added, "There are no people I'd rather be in the room with," and he said he has been amazed by the passion everyone has for the CTAC.
A personal call to action
He came to the organization after meeting Michaelson. Field had experienced difficulties with alcohol use by his own children, and as an attorney, he had been asked to help parents whose son had been assaulted at a University of Michigan fraternity party where students were drinking.
He was also touched by the story of Ryan Rosman, a Michigan State University student who was accidentally killed Nov. 5, 2009, after he crawled under a bus while trying to hide from police. He had been drinking with friends and, Field said, probably ran because he already had one ticket for being a minor in possession of alcohol.
He attended Rosman's funeral. "I guess that was the final straw," Field said. "I decided to get involved."
A Farmington Schools principal directed him to Michaelson, who told him she was leaving. Though friend and 47th District Court Judge James Brady told him he was crazy to take on the challenge with his busy schedule, Field decided to make time for the CTAC, he said.
Since taking over this fall, Field has been operating a Facebook page for the organization, sharing studies and information available through the Internet.
'It begins with all of us'
Bartsch spoke about the impact that drug abuse has not only on the abuser, but on everyone around him or her. He said he wondered whether parents are educated enough about abuse.
"We have to stop the mentality that our son or daughter will never do those things," Bartsch said. "It begins with all of us and, ultimately, with you and me."
Schulz said that 1996 was the last time Farmington had an alcohol-related fatality, and he credited enforcement and education. However, alcohol-related arrests are on the rise this year, he said, "so we've still got work to do." He said it's most important for parents to model behavior and show their children that "you can go out and have a good time, and you don't have to use alcohol."
"Marijuana, marijuana, marijuana" was on Nebus' mind — in particular, the consequences of Michigan's medical marijuana law. He said officers are spending more time fighting marijuana cases, but due to budget cuts, there are fewer officers. Nebus cited information about the increase in potency of today's marijuana and the effects on youth, which include an increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts — both the focus of a recent forum sponsored by the Farmington Area Suicide Task Force.
Field encouraged everyone to connect with the CTAC Facebook page and to get involved with the suicide task force and local parent-teacher organizations.
"Educate yourself, become aware and talk about the issues," he said. "Stay involved."