By Mrinal Gokhale
One day in January 2016, Selepri Amachree visited Honey Creek Church in Milwaukee. He explained to attendees there that he specializes in helping people who suffer from addictions, hoping that people may refer their family or friends to him. What happened next was surreal. “A woman and her boyfriend were sitting there in heroin withdrawal. They asked for my help,” Amachree said.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office stated that Wisconsin heroin deaths have more than tripled in the past five years. Years ago in Illinois, Amachree founded the Xtreme Intervention Project, a one-on-one faith-based intervention process designed to help addicts transition into rehabilitation.
“It costs four times less to hire me than to send someone to a 30 day program or prison for a year.” By utilizing what he calls the “Samaritan intervention model,” he focuses on what steps the Good Samaritan took to get someone off the streets.
“I keep in touch with my students after they’re in programs to help them find jobs or internships. I get to know my students better, making me a good resource to attorneys and programs I assist,” Amachree said.
He has helped hundreds of people throughout the United States of various backgrounds. Although he has only lived in Wisconsin since 2014, he is already familiar with Wisconsin’s disparities in the criminal justice system.
“It has sometimes been harder for me to persuade a black man’s probation officer to allow him into a program,” Amachree said. He recalls a specific experience from Wisconsin.
“Not too long ago, I helped a white woman and black man in a similar situations,” he began. “I got the white woman into an out of state rehab, but the black man’s probation officer wouldn’t even let him go to a Lake Geneva rehab.” After trying to get his client into a program for six long months, Amachree instead helped him enroll into college to become a drug and alcohol addictions counselor.
An NAACP study showed that five times as many Caucasians report using drugs than blacks. Yet, blacks are incarcerated at ten times the rate of whites for drug offenses. Amachree understood how addictions develop in socioeconomic backgrounds, and he considered himself one of a few successful black interventionists. He cited poverty and single parent households as factors that can cause addiction to develop.
“Pride combined with oppression fuels an underlying anger in black culture. For some blacks, years of oppression translates into a personal loss of self-value,” Amachree said.
“But you will find anger connected to some source of rejection in many addicts across the board, and they want a release to free themselves.”
Amachree regularly travels to seek people to help. He recently teamed up with the current Miss Wisconsin, Rosalie Smith to help people who have financial difficulty getting treatment. Smith started the COLIN Fund one year ago, which stands for Centered on Loving in Need. It is named after her brother, Colin who died of an alcohol overdose. Amachree remembered Colin was “a severe alcoholic and professed atheist.” After meeting Amachree, Smith said, Colin developed a relationship with God and got the help he needed. But it didn’t last forever.
“One night, he met up with some college friends who told him ‘One drink won’t kill you,’” Smith said. “One drink may not have killed him, but many drinks did.”
Smith has raised money for the COLIN Fund to help people get involved with the Xtreme Intervention Project. She most recently teamed up with Toppers on Milwaukee’s east side for a “dough-nation night,” collecting a percentage of all purchases made on March 30 to support the COLIN Fund.
“Most people have family members and friends that help them pay to get into rehab, but some don’t, and that’s what the COLIN Fund covers,” Smith said.
Amachree said once people contact Smith to ask about the COLIN Fund, they can release funds based on what they can pay out of pocket. Two people have benefitted from COLIN Fund so far.
“My weapons are designed to fight the demons that pull people, no matter who they are, out of the black hole we know as ‘addiction,’” Amachree said.
The Xtreme Intervention Project can be found online at thefamilyhopeline.com, through Facebook or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.