NPR Interview Reveals Pro-Heroin Mindset of Olympia’s Non-Profit Syringe Outreach

People’s Harm Reduction Alliance

The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA) is a Seattle-based  non-profit that distributes intravenous drug use supplies on the streets of Seattle’s U-District, as well as in Downtown Olympia and Kitsap County.  PHRA partners with EGYHOP street outreach volunteers to distribute needles in Olympia.  The leadership of this group also comprises the leadership team of The People’s House ‘low-barrier’ shelter.  EGYHOP/PHRA unapologetically does not hand out needles in the manner of the 1:1 exchange run by Thurston County.  Rather, it hands out needles regardless of whether or not there are dirty needles to exchange.

Listen to this short, yet enlightening interview by NPR’s Ross Reynold’s at KUOW.org : Shilo Murphy: Drug users are the best people to run needle exchanges.

The delusional and myopic mindset of an addict is on full display here.  “Drugs saved my life and they made me a better life.”  Olympia has given this mindset the keys to the city, and the outcome has been devastating.  Our quality of life, public safety, and economic vitality have been severely compromised as a result.

The ‘Best & Brightest’ in Action

“I think in moderation, drugs are inanimate objects, they have no real values.”  Murphy, who was admittedly ‘hung over’ during the interview, claimed several times to work ‘150-hour’ weeks, thereby claiming to defy the stigma of heroin addicts.  We regret to inform Mr. Murphy that there are only 168 total hours in a week.  That would only leave him with two and a half hours per 24-hour day to sleep, do drugs, and accomplish anything else.  We don’t deny his dedication, but the interviewer did not even bother to question whether this was biologically possible for a human to do.

Despite hiring ‘the best and brightest,’ Murphy’s math skills are possessed by his volunteers on the street as well.  At a recent community meeting, PHRA/EGYHOP distributed a fact sheet that claimed they consistently collect more needles than they hand out, distributing 300,000 to the street population Downtown last year, while collecting 350,000 in return.  Months earlier we had requested this same data for its Olympia operations, and PHRA responded via email that this was not data that was tracked.  If these numbers were indeed true, then PHRA/EGYHOP would never have to import needles from Seattle!  They would continually have a larger and ever-growing surplus of syringes from when they go to have them properly disposed of and exchanged by Thurston County Health.  What a mathematical mystery!

When asked about the risks of heroin use, Murphy only talked of how drug laws make heroin use dangerous.  In reality, heroin/opiate overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Washington state as well as nationally, skyrocketing past deaths from traffic accidents.  Messages from heroin awareness campaigns contrast sharply with PHRA’s depiction of a great life of heroin use; they state the following:

  • If you use heroin long enough, you are going to see someone die.
  • 30% of addicts end up using ‘survival sex’ to fund their addiction.
  • Addicts must spend a lot of money each day not only to get high, but just to feel normal, in order to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms.
  • At least 75% of people who try heroin once end up using again.  Young adults eventually end up homeless.
  • (Visit the interactive Wisconsin heroin awareness campaign The Fly Effect for the actual facts about the consequences of heroin use.

The heroin epidemic in Washington is so severe, yet none of our public health officials are speaking out about prevention or awareness.  We can’t afford to have these dangerous messages, unchecked by journalists, coming across the airwaves.

Changing Mindsets

It is one thing to help prevent HIV/Hep C infection.  It is another thing to allow a city’s core to be crippled by drug use.  It is counterproductive to operate under the guise of ‘harm reduction’ and ‘public health’ while at the same time advocating for heroin use, spreading myths about the safety of life-destroying substances, and being completely oblivious to community-wide impacts.

It is time for Olympia push back on the addict-centric mindset that is controlling the city.  There are too many families in Olympia who are painfully and tragically aware that having even one heroin addict in the housheroin graphehold is not sustainable.  The exponentially growing numbers of new intravenous drug users in Olympia,  correlated with the rise in violent crime, small business loss, theft, and trashed public spaces are proof that this is not a sustainable path for the City as a whole either.

‘Laws and norms’ regarding drugs were listed as the main risk factor for opiate addiction in Olympia by Thurston County Health’s Substance Abuse Strategic Plan.  This conclusion is based on questions from the Healthy Youth Survey, given at local schools every other spring.  Back in 2012, the survey revealed 4.7% of 10th graders indicated that they had used heroin.  It is clearly time to stop giving heroin a pass.  As long as the path of least resistance for addicts leads straight through Olympia, our community will continue to tumble down the dark and dangerous spiral of heroin addiction.  We believe that the susceptibility of our ‘laws and norms’ must be addressed comprehensively from a law enforcement, education, and public health perspective.

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We will leave you with this public service announcement from PHRA/EGYHOP, which features an improper method (according to WA state hazardous waste disposal laws) for disposal of dirty syringes – which are now your responsibility.  Be sure to read the text below this YouTube video which assigns blame for dirty needles in public to diabetics and police harassment of drug users .

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2 thoughts on “NPR Interview Reveals Pro-Heroin Mindset of Olympia’s Non-Profit Syringe Outreach

  1. Dino Smith

    Is that Meg of the People’s House in that video? And did she state that she’s volunteer at EGYHOP? The same organization which are distributing the needles to the homeless? The same needles which has become a HUGE problem for not only trashing our city but also risking innocent, non-drug using, individuals health by allowing these needles to discarded carelessly? The respect I had for her and her cause has completely vanished. Organizations like this are self-serving. These organizations can not survive without these drugs so they feed on it by giving away free needles. The drug addiction then makes the users homeless so these individuals now have to solve the homeless situation of drug users, for which these groups feed on. These people have no shame. Here are some free needles! How about instead of a one-to-one exchange, which would never work with these people, that they set up services to help the drug addict get over the addiction? These people are disgusting.

    Reply
  2. Brandon

    Regardless of your opinion, needle exchange programs like PHRA save lives. They were the first in the state to provide Nalaxone, and are one of the largest programs in the country, exchanging more than 3 million syringes per year.

    Every case of hep C, HIV or other infectious disease prevented saves the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Preventive care keeps people out of hospitals, teaches them proper use, provides a safe space outside of a jail cell (legalizing pathways to recovery), and tries to keep them safe so that in the event they do get clean, there will be as little lasting damage as possible, though mental and physical well being can often be challenging against such stigmatization.

    The video you claim improperly teaches Syringe disposal? Often the only recourse for people not able to get a hazardous sharps bin, which are often in short supply. It teaches people how to properly dispose of syringes, in compliance with Thurston and King County law, using materials they often have in the house, such as gallon bottles or juice containers. This keeps strays off of playgrounds, out of streets, and in a safely contained unit for trash collectors.

    Drug users are people. Drug use and addiction is a health problem, not a criminal one. You treat them as a marginalized and criminal population. Why not allow recovery? Rehab costs half as much as a jail cell. Education and job training programs cost almost nothing, save millions versus their benefits, and a roof over a persons head can be the first step to recovery, holding a stable job, and in winters like the ones we’ve had, save lives.

    Reply

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