Genesee County anti-drug organization get K-9 to sniff out narcotics

The German Shepherd just completed training to detect six illegal drugs, including fentanyl.
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT
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GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - (4/8/2021) - In the last year, overdoses in Genesee County have risen exponentially. Right now, data from first responders shows, on average, 45 people overdose every two weeks.

That’s 45 families impacted from all walks of life.

As that number rises, so does the number of deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic has played a large role in the increasing number of addicted people.

Now, one mid-Michigan group on the frontlines is trying a different approach to protecting the community.

UCAN stands for United Community Addiction Network. The primary goal is getting every resource in Genesee County on the same page to help those addicted get help, get sober.

Now when a person is in treatment, there’s an added protection to keep drugs out of hands -- the UCAN Canine Unit.

Hanz is a 15-month-old German Shepherd. He just completed an intense three-week training with his handler Chad Halverson.

“For so long this has been just kind of a dream,” Halverson said. “And, we just graduated last Friday and I’m very excited.”

Halverson choked up talking about experiencing this dream become a reality. He’s always wanted to be a K-9 handler, going back to his years as a police officer in the Air Force.

Pair that with Halverson’s firsthand experience of the pain addiction can cause -- his Mom and stepson have been struggling for years.

“I love dogs. I love them. And I’m self employed, other than this, so I can volunteer and do this and still do my job,” he explained. “I have a lot of passion for it.”

A grant UCAN received last year made the unit possible.

Hanz trained on detecting six types of illegal drugs, including fentanyl.

UCAN President Aaron Rubio said the K-9 will be used to help clean out a family’s home where their loved one may have overdosed, to inspect school lockers or cars in their parking lot and to keep local treatment facilities and transitional houses drug-free.

“Sometimes we’re strong and we’re doing the right things in recovery. But if temptation sneaks in and we weren’t prepared for it, sometimes that little, that little bit of temptation is enough to turn someone to relapse, who had good intention, who was trying to do the right thing,” Rubio explained.

He’s hopeful Hanz’s ability to detect will deter that activity in the first place.

ABC12 also asked why UCAN needed a K-9, rather than relying on a police K-9 to handle the job. He said they’ve got enough on their plate and UCAN was eager to step up.

Halverson will be carrying Narcan and a first aid kit at all times because the drugs Hanz will be searching for are so dangerous.

If you’d like to connect with UCAN, click here.

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