Organizing the FightUnited Community Addiction Network


The United Community Addiction Network (UCAN) has a mission of uniting community resources to help fight the disease of addiction, according to the Founder and Executive Director, Aaron Rubio. Founded in June 2020, the nonprofit organization uses a clinical community approach to help people with Substance Use Disorders (SUD). Rubio, who was previously involved with Families Against Narcotics (FAN), said he realized that there was a piece of the puzzle missing in that organization. FAN was primarily focused on working with those struggling with addictions and with their families. “We were not focused on making change,” he explains.

“We had a lot of resources, but it just wasn’t organized. Now, we have a network of people fighting the fight against addiction.”
Aaron Rubio

“The Network has worked to create strategic partners in the community that are collaborating for change,” Rubio says, “and to implement our clinical community approach for anyone struggling with any SUD.” The community partners include hospitals, law enforcement agencies, the court system, schools and other pillars within the community.

According to the executive director, UCAN provides services throughout Genesee County. The Great Lakes Thumb Chapter of UCAN provides services for people in Lapeer, Sanilac, Tuscola and Huron Counties. “Actually, we are moving on to the national level,” he reports. “Our vision is to implement the community clinical approach to substance abuse disorders across the state, country and the world.”

UCAN is operated by an executive board of people who are passionate about being part of the movement against the disease of addiction, Rubio explains. An advisory board meets quarterly and brings representation from multiple community sectors. In December 2020, the organization received an initial grant to get them up and running. Funding is generated by an annual golf outing and various fundraisers throughout the year. Donations can be made at UCAN is also the charity of choice for Detroit Tigers Alumni and Friends annual golf outing which will take place at the Captain’s Club at Woodfield on Monday, August 7.

The Network helps connect people to substance abuse treatment resources such as medical care, halfway houses, support groups and more. Each program participant is assigned a peer recovery coach. “We are currently working with three peer recovery coaches,” says Rubio. UCAN also helps connect people with family coaches, therapists and psychiatrists. Support meetings, such as Family Support, Narcotics Anonymous, and Grief Support are held at the UCAN Genesee County Office, 4800 S. Saginaw St., Flint.

At Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, UCAN’s Mobile Crisis Unit helps a patient with a SUD get the resources they need after evaluation. “If a patient is determined to be at risk, we call in our team,” Rubio explains. The team helps the patient with issues such as withdrawal while hospitalized, and following discharge, a community care navigator helps the patient get further resources, he adds. “This is an example of the clinical community approach. It is effective and it does work.”

UCAN is working to educate the public about its state-certified Canine Detection Team created to deter or detect drugs inside drug-free facilities.

UCAN also works directly with the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and has created prevention and awareness videos for schools. UCAN also plans to work directly with high school athletic associations regarding treatment protocol for sports injuries. “We will work with the athletic directors, coaches and the students to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding medication,” Rubio states. “This is in the developmental phase and our goal is to implement it in the fall. There are a lot of ways to get addicted – injuries in athletics are a big one. Sports injuries can be very painful and treatment options need to be carefully assessed.”

The Network is also focused on helping veterans get on a pathway to a successful sober life, Rubio reports. “We can connect our veterans to information, resources and support.”

According to Rubio, UCAN works in collaboration with local law enforcement to assist them with addiction resources, coaches, education, training and a skilled trades program for inmates – the Pathways to Apprentice Program. UCAN also oversees a Beyond The Wall initiative, which goes inside jails to help prepare inmates for life after incarceration.

At Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, UCAN’s Mobile Crisis Unit helps patients with a SUD get the resources they need after evaluation.

UCAN has a Canine Detection Team with the goal of deterring or detecting drugs inside drug-free facilities. “Our canine detection team is second to none!” Rubio exclaims. “Our team is state-certified in drug detection and this service will help facilities, schools and private residences to be drug-free.”

UCAN is involved in many local events including DEA Drug Take Back Days which are held bi-annually in April and October. The organization also supports the 29th Annual Soberfest – a drug- and alcohol-free event that promotes recovery and sobriety – on Sunday, July 16. International Overdose Awareness Day will take place at Hasselbring Senior Center on August 31. This event brings awareness to the severity of overdoses in Genesee County and what law enforcement and other local organizations are doing to combat them, as well providing information about who to call and where residents can go for resources if they find themselves or someone they love in a crisis.

Rubio is passionate about UCAN’s movement in fighting the disease of addiction. Currently,  the organization is working actively with 22 clients and has helped 175 clients in the last year. “We had a lot of resources, but it just wasn’t organized. Now, we have a network of people fighting the fight against addiction.”  


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