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.