By DEANNA BANGS
Recent heroin overdoses, deaths, and arrests led to the rally of community members to find solutions to drug-related issues. Local police, medical doctors, emergency medical technicians, probation officers and drug and alcohol professionals made up the panel that discussed all of these issues at last Tuesday night’s City Hall meeting.
John Graf of the Kittitas County Community Network Coalition led the affair, which consisted of an informational presentation on heroin followed by questions from community members to the panel.
The content of the presentation included methods of using heroin, its physical appearance, and possible reasons for the increasing usage in the area. Luckily, according to Ellensburg Police Department’s Chief John Miller, heroin statistics provided by local drug and alcohol treatment centers follow statewide trends.
Ellensburg’s location in Washington State and its connection to Interstate 90 may be responsible for the increase in availability of heroin in the community. Some shipments are prevented before they can be dispersed to other parts of the state. However, not all shipments of heroin are intercepted.
The Seattle Times reported that prescription drug abuse is down, due to its high cost and new laws implemented in 2012 to prevent over-prescribing.
“These are the consequences of well-meaning laws,” said Dr. Solberg of Community Hospital of Central Washington.
The expense and difficulty obtaining prescription narcotics have left users seeking cheaper and easier means of maintaining their high.
“Drugs go through different trends,”said Dawn Bass, counselor at Alcohol Drug Dependency Service. “The trend now is heroin.”
Dr. John Asriel, MD of CHCM explained that long-term results of abuse can lead to overdoses, infections, depression and Hepatitis, which can be treated; however,
“Medical doctors are not the best at determining addiction,” Asriel said.“We need to improve on that.”
Dr. Asriel explained that several overdose medications are on back-order in hospitals, which makes the issue of drug use even more serious.
Michael Stafford of Kittitas County Probation Services believes there are different reasons why people seek out the drug.
“There are misunderstandings about drugs, especially among young people,” Stafford said.
Concerned individuals and professionals alike weighed in on the discussion to analyze reasons for the increase in usage and possible solutions to curb or prevent its abuse.
“We need to get ahead of this before it becomes an epidemic,” Darren Higashiyama, said, ommander of KCSO. “Public education, knowing when someone is under the influence, and discarding any unused drugs are all examples of ways to improve the situation.”
Michael Stafford also suggested other methods of prevention.
“Happy people are less likely to be drug users,” Stafford said. “Success in school, avoiding gateway drugs, and school activities [help prevent abuse].”
Community members asked about howto talk to their children about drugs. The panel’s unanimous answer was to begin age-appropriate drug and alcohol education in elementary school.
The tone of the evening turned to the community’s future and healing process. If the drug-related issues are going to stop, the community will have to jump on board in order for the efforts to be met.
“Everybody needs to be involved in this,” John Sinclair said, Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue Chief.