Denise Ilitch talks about removing stigma from addiction at Families Against Narcotics

With just 30 people, Families Against Narcotics started in the basement of a Fraser church. A dozen years later, FAN has grown into 21 chapters nationwide.

Judge Linda Davis is one of the original founders.

"I pinch myself every day to see how this is grown," she said. "I have a daughter who is in recovery, which is why I got involved. She is doing great, but I watch parents suffer through this all the time - but there are solutions." 

FAN does everything from speak to kids in 150 schools to partnering with 80 police departments in eight counties to create Hope Not Handcuffs - a program that allows an addict to walk into any police department and ask for help.

"Oftentimes when they come out of jail, they don't have a safe place to go, so we pay for transitional housing as a bridge until benefits kick in and until they can get a job," Davis said.  "We also assign peer recovery coaches to those individuals and we are the only organization in the state of Michigan that actually has family coaches that works with the family."

"I want to communicate hope and I want to stop the stigma of it and talk about how important it is to understand the disease and have empathy for it," said Denise Ilitch.

Because addiction affects the entire family, Denise Ilitch who recently lost her brother Ron to an overdose, spoke to the more than 1,000 guests at the FAN fundraiser inside Penna's in Sterling Heights.

"It effects the entire family and I think the stigma of it stops people from seeking help," Ilitch said. "I think it is important that I share this story, and that this happens with every family or every other family, and the disease chooses you. You don't choose it."

That also hits home for Jeremiah Campbell, who hosted the fundraiser. He lost his brother to a heroin overdose, which led him to seek help on 2007. He has been clean ever since. 

"Addiction and alcoholism runs rampant in almost every family," he said. "Families Against Narcotics wants to change the focus on the way we look at the disease of addiction and the way it's treated and the way we treat each other around the disease."