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Community updates: Friday, Oct. 1

Kent County Health Department offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters; Grand Rapids City Commission declares support for decriminalizing entheogenic plants, fungi; and Grand Rapids Police Department launches podcast to engage community.
Downtown Grand Rapids, facing east.

Downtown Grand Rapids, facing east. /Experience Grand Rapids

Kent County Health Department offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is now offering booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to eligible people, it announced this week.

Effective since Tuesday, the boosters are available at all three of the KCHD’s clinic locations. Appointments can be made by calling (616) 632-7200, with clinic locations and hours listed on the department’s website.

The KCHD cited the CDC’s new booster shot recommendation in its announcement. The CDC, as well as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, recommend a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 years or older, those in long-term care settings, and those aged 50-64 years with underlying medical conditions.

People in high-risk occupational settings are also encouraged by the CDC to receive the booster, among other groups. For all groups part of the recommendation, this applies only to those who have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

“The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the [U.S.] continue to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 including the Delta variant,” the KCHD said in a Monday statement. “However, public health experts are beginning to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease, so boosters are now being approved for use in populations that are most vulnerable.”

The KCHD also noted that the CDC is expected to make recommendations about the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines after reviewing data in the coming weeks.


Grand Rapids City Commission declares support for decriminalizing entheogenic plants, fungi

Grand Rapids city commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution declaring support for the decriminalization of psychedelic plants and fungi, also known as “entheogens,” at the local, state, and federal levels.

The resolution does not outright decriminalize the use and possession of entheogens in Grand Rapids, which remains illegal under state and federal law. However, it affirms the commission’s support of “ongoing low prioritization for regulating the possession and use” of such substances and acknowledges “very little public funds directed toward proactive investigation or prosecution of such cases.”

The resolution, available on the city’s website, was advocated for by Decriminalize Nature Grand Rapids (DNGR), an educational and advocacy campaign seeking to help decriminalize entheogens in the city. The campaign modeled its efforts after a similar, successful effort in Ann Arbor in Sept. 2020, led by affiliate campaign Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor.

DNGR has promoted the use of entheogenic plants and substances as having positive potential for psychological and physical wellness, end-of-life care, treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other illnesses, and more. Entheogenic substances include psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and mescaline, among others.

“While there is still work to be done, this resolution is a great first step for the City of Grand Rapids and their commitment to rethinking punitive penalties and alternative ways to approach psychological and spiritual health,” DNGR said in a Thursday statement.

City commissioners passed the resolution in a 5-2 split vote, with dissenting votes coming from Third Ward commissioners Senita Lenear and Nathaniel Moody. The commissioners’ discussion on the topic during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, along with public comments, are available to view through the City of Grand Rapids’ YouTube page.


Grand Rapids Police Department launches podcast to engage community

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) has launched a podcast, aiming to connect with the community in a new way.

Called “Behind the Badge,” the podcast is available on Anchor and Spotify and hosted by GRPD Information Officer Sergeant Dan Adam. It will provide a candid view of the department’s operations, according to the GRPD, along with its people and their experiences serving and protecting the community.

The GRPD hopes to release a new episode at least every other week and have a wide variety of topics and guests.

One thing that we have learned the past few years is that the community wants more contact with their police department, particularly outside enforcement activities,” Sergeant Adams said. “With just about everyone using their smartphones and podcasts being so popular, this just seemed like a natural evolution to share important information and engage in thoughtful conversation.”

The first episode of the podcast was uploaded last week, featuring an interview on hiring and recruiting with GRPD Officer Javon Sanders. The GRPD encourages anyone with topic or guests suggestions to reach out to the department at [email protected].


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