Heroin: a national epidemic hits close to home

By Courtney Kendler
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

With much of the country falling victim to the steady rise in heroin use, many ordinary communities across the nation are struggling when it comes to helping those with substance abuse problems. Holt is no different.

“A big problem in Holt right now is the same problem everywhere. It’s heroin. It’s huge,” said Delhi Township Supervisor C.J. Davis. “Nobody wants to talk about it. They’re ashamed to be involved in it, but it’s bigger than most people know.”

According to information from the Ingham County Health Department, 19 county residents died of heroin overdoses between January and June of 2015.

Michigan has experienced a significant increase in heroin related deaths recently.

Michigan has experienced a significant increase in heroin related deaths in the last few years. Chart by Courtney Kendler.

Ingham County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Harless expects this number to double before the year is over. “I’ll bet we will be in the 40s or near 45 by the end of the year,” he said.

While there are many reasons someone might turn to heroin, a majority of experts agree that the over-prescribing of prescription painkillers is a common gateway for many addicts.

According to addiction psychiatrist Dr. Norman Miller, “studies show clearly for years that over 50 percent of the people who become addicted to heroin started with prescription opioid medications.”

“People get on painkillers and then are taken off of them, and the only place they have to turn is heroin,” said Davis.

University of Michigan Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Amy Bohnert, who specializes in prescription drug overdoses, agrees that heroin addiction frequently sprouts from the use of prescription painkillers.

“Individuals are using prescription opioids and develop a problematic dependence on the medications and then either switch to heroin because it is cheaper or because they lose access to prescription opioids,” said Bohnert.

While movies may stereotype the typical drug abuser as someone who lurks in the shadows and is constantly strung out, Harless doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a conventional drug abuser anymore.

“The heroin users are the people next door. They’re the people who are sitting next to you in church and the people that you go to school with,” said Harless. “I think that most of us know somebody that is a heroin user … It’s people that we all work with, play with.

“It is such a universal problem.”

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Give-A-Kid Projects give relief to families in the community

By Aundreana Jones-Poole
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

Families in Holt are finding relief during the holiday season and beyond through a local non-profit organization.

The Give-A-Kid Projects, which first began as just Give-A-Kid-A-Coat, was started in 1984 and has since expanded out to Give-A-Kid-A-Christmas, Give-A-Kid-A-Backpack, and Give-A-Kid 360. It serves many children who live in or attend Holt schools.

Last year 453 children were served by the Christmas program and 898 adults with a household items store.

“Right now we are predicting that we will surpass what we did last year; so what we really need is  for people in the community to adopt a family,” said Kris Hummel, President of the Give-A-Kid Projects. “Last year the Give-A-Kid program spent $8,000 ourselves on Christmas to make sure that the kids were taken care of.”

According to Give-A-Kids Projects board member Tim Currin, the organization works closely with the schools to find the families most in need.

“We have a great work relationship with Holt Public Schools,” said Currin. “What we mainly do is send fliers home with the students in what they call their Friday folders about three months prior to our programs.”

According to Currin, the fliers that they give have all of the information that the families need in order to know how to sign up.

“They give them to their mom or dad or whoever their parent is, then the parents contact us and come out to our building at 4064 Holt Road and we have them fill out forms,” said Currin.

Give-A-Kid House Located at 4064 Holt Road

Give-A-Kid House
Located at 4064 Holt Road

To ensure that these resources aren’t being abused and are available to those families who genuinely need them the most, families who want to participate in the program have to be verified.

“They have to supply the sheets that we have them fill out with their income, they also have to prove residency and their social security numbers,” said Hummel. “And that is all submitted into the Salvation Army database; schools also give us names.”

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Midway Early Learning Center reaching out to students most in need

By Catherine Ferland 
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

For Neal Cronkite — a teacher in Holt — and his wife, sending their two sons to Midway Early Learning Center was a carefully calculated, but well-made choice.

“After touring the centers, we made a spreadsheet and color-coded it with pros and cons — yes, we are those people,” he said with a smile. After comparing costs, scheduling, education level of the teachers and other factors, they made their choice.

“He is learning to solve problems with other kids, that he has to wait his turn, and to share,” Cronkite said, while discussing the increased socialization that he’s seen in his three-year-old son, Ian. “He also works everyday to learn new things like colors, shapes, letters, and the weather. Ian knows and talks with teachers that he’s never had because all of the staff gets to know all of the kids. This sense of community is huge for us.”

The Midway Early Learning Center, formerly known as Midway Elementary is on Spahr Avenue in Holt.

The Midway Early Learning Center, formerly known as Midway Elementary is on Spahr Avenue in Holt.

According to the Perry Preschool Study, a longitudinal study that followed 123 impoverished, high-risk preschoolers over the course of 40 years, children who attend early childhood learning centers are more likely hold a job, commit fewer crimes, and are more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool.

But how do those numbers add up today? Do underprivileged preschoolers have the same access to these beneficial programs?

The short answer? Yes.

Heather Crandall, the director of the Midway Early Learning Center said that about 50 percent of the students at Midway are part of the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), a state-funded program that provides financial aid to families who qualify.

“In this area, with this building, I think we’re doing our part,” Crandall said. “As a whole, I’m not sure. I would love to see more districts do this because the benefits for children and their families is huge, so I would love to see more districts come on.”

Midway Early Learning Center costs around $2,510 monthly for five days of curriculum based preschool for a four-year-old . For a year, that amounts to almost $30,000. Midway also has a lot of other programming options for half-days or childcare services without the formal curriculum, all which have different costs.

In order to qualify for the GSRP, families must fall under one of the risk factors and provide proper documentation to support the claim. The risk factors include financial need or falling below the poverty line, a diagnosed disability of the child or a sibling, severe or challenging behavior, having a primary language other than English, low education attainment of the parent, abuse or neglect, or an environmental risk.

Environmental risks include parent loss, having a teen parent, sibling issues, homelessness, living in a high-risk neighborhood or prenatal or postnatal exposure to a toxic substance.

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Colleen Yax-Grabow is the GSRP teacher at Midway, who also handles all of the GSRP applications for the facility. She said that while 90 percent of the GSRP students must be below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, the other 10 percent are made up of students with special needs that have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a program set up for students that have special needs, regardless of family income.

“I can only speak for how I feel about that, but yes I believe that we do service the children,” she said. “We provide them opportunities to prepare them for kindergarten and give them the resources that they need to help them be successful and life-long learners.”

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Holt Public Schools plan to keep students in the classroom

By Ashley Gibbard
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

After Holt Public Schools Trustee Mark Needham attended an Ingham Schools Officers Association meeting he knew that Holt Public schools needed to improve their plan to keep students in the classroom.

“While our dropout rate is on par with national average we have a fair amount of ninth-grade students who start high school within the district and then end up switching to a different district,” Needham said. “That’s where our problem lies, and we are working every day to figure out why students are leaving and what we can do to keep them here.”

According to The National Center for Education Statistics the national high school dropout rate is about 6.5 percent and while Michigan’s dropout rate is 9.61 percent Holt Public Schools remains right with the national average at 6.9 percent. Most students who dropout of high school fit in the at risk category regrading GPA’s, family life and economic status.

Data provided by

Data provided by The National Center for Education Statistics

Barbara Markle, Assistant Dean for K-12 Outreach in the College of Education at Michigan State University talks about the programs she works to implement in schools for at-risk students.

“I work with school faculty and policymakers to basically find a way to translate research data into programs to improve a schools and its student’s performance, Markle said.

“One of our main focuses is developing school turnaround expertise for high poverty, low performing urban schools and districts. Then hopefully the programs encourage students considered at risk to stay in school.”

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Happy in Holt? You’re not alone

By Carrie Lynch
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

After calculating various criteria such as unemployment rates, costs of living, crime and even amount of sunny days, Nick Johnson of homesnacks.net calculated Holt to be one of the top 10 happiest cities across Michigan.

Johnson looked at different demographics of every city in Michigan and found Holt to be the eighth-happiest city in Michigan.

At a population of 23,973 people, Holt has the ninth-highest marriage rate in Michigan, according to the Homesnacks website. Fifty-nine percent of residents in Holt are married and 71 percent own a home. According to United States Census Bureau, 51 percent of people in Michigan are married, showing that Holt is 9 percent higher than the state average.

“There are a lot of elements to consider at when assessing the overall happiness of a city. I would say that marriage rates would be at the top of the list, but things like education, job opportunities, and costs of living would be close contenders,” said urban planning expert Daniel Hess.

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As national school violence increases, Holt looks to stay safe

By Catherine Ferland
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

While studies still support the idea that a child is safer in school than they are in a car, the rising rate of acts of violence in school still raises red flags for some.

Acts of school violence can occur anywhere and can have many different causes, making them difficult to track and study.

So what can schools do to stay safe?

For the Holt School District, most doors are locked with security cameras. The school resource officer, Mary Hull, a local deputy, is on-call for the district’s eleven different buildings.

Visitors to the school must speak to an intercom at the locked front door where they are asked for their purpose for entering the school, after which they are let into the school. Visitors are asked to stay in a secured lobby area until the appropriate administrator comes to them.

“I’ve been in Holt public for 20 years and in the early days all school doors were propped open but over the years with more school violence that has been flipped and we have to be more prepared,” David Hornak, the superintendent of the Holt School District said.

Hornak said that increased school security started back after the Columbine shootings, but continued to grow as the number of school shootings increased.

“School safety is a very important thing and we need to make sure that stays a focus point for us,” he said. “Do I want to trust everyone? Absolutely. Can we trust everyone? Nope.”

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A program in Holt is LINKing students with some special needs peers

By Aundreana Jones-Poole
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

A program at Holt High School is changing the lives of general education students and their disabled peers.

The LINKS program is a peer-to-peer support program that was implemented by The START program at Grand Valley State University to provide help to students with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other disabilities.

The help comes from other high school students. The students who provide support are called “LINKS.” They have the option of enrolling in the program as an elective.

“I took it as an elective because I had heard good things about it and I thought it sounded interesting,” said Kaleigh Schavey, a former LINK participant at Holt High School.

According to Maureen Ziegler, Autism Education and Intervention Specialist for the START project, students who choose to be LINKS can receive elective credit while learning a curriculum based on Autism internet modules.

“The program uses college credit material in a high school setting,” said Ziegler.

According to Ryan Anderson, a LINKS coordinator and teacher at Holt High School, the program isn’t necessarily aimed at helping the disabled students academically, but to help them in knowing how to behave and socialize in a high school setting.

“I give them (the LINKS) a list of things that are and aren’t the job of a LINK,” said Anderson. “The main goal of the LINK is to help them with independence and to feel safe in high school and to teach them the unwritten rules of high school.”

Schavey said that the impact of the LINKS program was deeper than just modeling how the students should behave and helping them with school-based things.

“I think that the students in the program gained a friend and someone they could trust,” said Schavey. “Whether they’re in that class together or at lunch or in the hall, they know that they can walk up to you and have a conversation with a friend of theirs that will always be there for them.” 

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Hiking trails make Dehli Township more appealing, official says. So expect more

By Ashley Gibbard
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

Delhi Township is using its non-motorized transportation plan it make its community more appealing to potential homeowners of all generations.

“We want to open things up and have as much space for new parks and trails as possible, by doing so along with adding new sidewalks and running infrastructure underground we have already seen an increase in people from a younger generation buying homes here,” Delhi Township Supervisor C.J. Davis said. “It makes it more inviting.”

Passed in 2007, the plan is more a part of the community than ever, with the addition of the new Ram Trail and the idea of even more trails being added in the future.

“We definitely have plans for even more trails,” Davis said. “The plan gets updated every five years so that we can add new trails with the help of grants.

“We plan on putting a new path to the park on Holt Road and also creating a path to Cedar Lake, which I think about 90 percent of our residents don’t even know exists because it is hidden by old unused buildings,” Davis said.

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Chronic wasting disease brings new rules for deer hunters

By Courtney Kendler
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

With the Michigan deer-hunting season in full swing, local hunters should be conscious of new hunting regulations being enforced due to the presence of chronic wasting disease in deer.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has created new regulations that will prohibit the possession or salvage of deer that have been killed in motor vehicle collisions and will also enforce the mandatory testing of deer during the hunting season.

The goal of these new regulations is to “help determine the geographic distribution and magnitude of the disease and lower deer population density, which may lower the propensity for further disease transmission,” said National Wildlife Health Center Emerging Disease Coordinator Bryan Richards.

The salvage of deer that have been hit by motor vehicles is now prohibited within the Core CWD Area. Photo by Courtney Kendler.

The salvage of deer that have been hit by motor vehicles is now prohibited within the Core CWD Area. Photo by Courtney Kendler.

According to information from the DNR, the first case of chronic wasting disease, a neurological disease found in deer and elk that attacks the brain and produces small lesions that result in death, was confirmed in Meridian Township in April 2015. Two additional cases have also been confirmed so far this year.

In order to stop the spread of CWD, the DNR has established a Core CWD Area consisting of Alaiedon, Delhi, Lansing, Meridian, Wheatfield and Williamstown Townships in Ingham County; Bath and DeWitt Townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County.

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Cedar Street Revisioning Project looks to improve downtown Holt

By Catherine Ferland
Holt Journal Staff Reporter

What makes a community feel like home?

For Tracy Miller, the director of the Delhi Charter Township Department of Community Development, it’s a lot more than just new sidewalks, flowers and flagpoles.

The Cedar Street Revisioning Project will look to make Cedar Street more business friendly. Photo by Catherine Ferland

The Cedar Street Revisioning Project will look to make Cedar Street more business friendly. Photo by Catherine Ferland

“Having a strong sense of place helps to attract people, who in turn help to attract businesses,” she said.

Miller is working with the Downtown Development Authority of the Delhi Charter Township to revitalize Cedar Street by investing in infrastructure that will help businesses to thrive.

“I don’t think that anyone would argue with me if I said that we continue to have businesses here that struggle,” Miller said at a DDA meeting at the end of September.

Davis said that the Cedar Street Revisioning Plan will be looking into options to change the traffic patterns so that people passing through will slow down and be able to see more of the businesses.

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