Over the last year, Team SAFE has been fueled by the support of hundreds of community members who have been committed towards changing the culture of how we handle and face substance abuse and mental health related issues,” Abdallah said. “Through this support, we have been blessed to be able to serve those in need in the most crucial times of their lives.”
Abdallah is one of five founders of SAFE, which is dedicated to dispel the myths and stigmas about substance abuse and drug addiction through public education and advocacy from community leaders.
“We now have over 750 members and have helped over 150 people by either referring them to treatment, counseling or some type of recovery program,” he said. “We’ve partnered with 12 centers around the state and have a good relationship with local universities and Dearborn Public Schools, and we’re planning to create programs with them.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) and state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) will serve as guest speakers at the event.
“We’re expecting about 500 to 600 people, and the entire dinner will highlight the work we’ve done,” he said. “And the highlight of the dinner is that all proceeds are going to continue our programs and services catered to helping people achieve success and recovery.”
Abdallah said he’s grateful to have both legislators in attendance. As someone who has experienced family members dealing with addiction, Dingell will offer a particularly personal point of view, he added.
“I had a meeting with her about this exact topic, and it wasn’t the first time she shared her story with me,” he said. “There’s no greater way to learn in life than from somebody who’s been through it before. She’s a perfect example of someone who’s come full circle. And having someone with that heartfelt, driven passion for the issue is so beneficial for what we’re trying to do.”
Impacting the substance abuse issue through public policy is one of SAFE’s long-term goals, and Abdallah said the group is fortunate to have elected officials who are committed to that in their platforms.
“They’ve consistently been on the front lines for that,” he said, adding that SAFE also wants to ensure laws are implemented to protect patients who legitimately need prescription medication.
“We’re working on what kind of policies and rules to make in the school systems. It’s a collective effort on all fronts. The school board needs to be just as informed as the city and state representatives. At the end of the day, the policy needs to be reflective of the community you represent.”
High school and college students also make up SAFE’s membership, and an interfaith religious council provides a broad base of spiritual support.
Getting into the schools is one of SAFE’s biggest missions with local chapters being created at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford College. Students are encouraged to form local chapters to give the perspective from young people dealing with the societal pressures of substance abuse.
Recognizing those people who have made great strides on their path to sobriety also is a big part of the first anniversary dinner.
“We’re awarding those who have over a year in recovery through program,” he said. “It’s such a cool way to reward them for the work they’ve done and show them they’re not alone in this. We’re building a community that is empathetic to this issue.”
Hassan F. Abdallah, J.D. Rabih Darwiche 2017 Rise Above award winner