Will Olympia’s Leaders Speak Up about the Heroin Problem in this Town?

On September 17th, Concerned Olympians testified to City Council on Olympia’s heroin epidemic. Councilmembers requested a workshop with the County for more information.

Well, it’s January… better late than never?

City Councilmembers, County Commissioners, the Thurston County sheriff and local police, treatment services, and more attended the meeting. The core of the meeting was a presentation from Joe Avalos, Chemical Dependency Program Manager for Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, which included statistics showing that heroin abuse is on the rise. Conversations revolved around what each organization is doing right now around treatment, housing, the needle exchange, etc.  Read the full article in the Olympian.

Most organizations at the table lamented the current funding situation.

The focus of the meeting was almost entirely on solutions to help people once they are already heavily addicted.

What was sorely lacking was any discussion of prevention and education.

The sole exception to this was Thurston County’s new Health Officer, Dr. Wood. Dr. Wood mentioned the state-wide education and outreach program that is currently being implemented by the State of Wisconsin, theflyeffect.com.

Concerned Olympians is working to bring this low-cost program to Washington State and start raising awareness about the deep community impacts of heroin use. The benefit of education and prevention far outweighs the cost of long-term treatment, incarceration, or rehabilitation.

The Olympian article repeatedly called this an “epidemic,” although no city or county official has used that word.  The meeting left us wondering, will our leaders start speaking up about this epidemic?  This is a problem that must be solved, whether there is money to solve it or not.  

One councilmember referred to this current epidemic as a “blip”. Well, a 500% increase in syringes exchanged since 2006 is hardly a blip. Our children can’t wait 5 years to have their school playgrounds, parks, and libraries free from discarded syringes. They need them now. 

 Budgets are tight, but words are free.  We hope our leaders will have the courage to confront this epidemic and bring to it the awareness and attention it deserves.


One thought on “Will Olympia’s Leaders Speak Up about the Heroin Problem in this Town?

  1. Patrick C

    I attended the workshop/meeting of Oly City council and county health officials. The article in the Olympian did not mention one of the last speakers- who was not on the agenda- was sheriff John Snaza. He pretty much took the whole group to task for missing the point. He called out OPD for eliminating their narcotics detective and their down town foot patrols back in 2010. Both of these have been or are in process of being reinstated as of this week. With the exception of Jim Cooper and Mayor Buxbaum- the city government of Olympia seemed incapable of comprehending the scope and gravity of the problem


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