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Snohomish heroin forum brings tears, sheds light

SNOHOMISH — Knowing the signs to look for in opioid abuse and how to help – or deal tough love – were among the main topics covered at the Snohomish Police Department-led heroin forum last week.
“Education is part of the solution,” was the main theme of the night. Arresting heroin addicts is not the only answer, but breaking the cycle of addiction is.
More than 125 people gathered in the Snohomish High School Performing Arts Center last Thursday night to talk and listen about heroin. A few came forward, desperate for answers and seeking guidance, while others came to learn more about what can be done.
Law enforcement, recovery advocates and a representative from UW’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute came to talk and listen to forum attendees. The forum ran over two hours, with a Q-and-A style discussion taking up a good portion of the night.
Everyone already knew there is a heroin epidemic, and everyone already knew many local crimes are tied to heroin. What they wanted to know, though, was how to respond to the scourge.
The ways to respond is through education, forum leaders said, by volunteering, keeping track of the issue locally and by helping loved ones.
“Jail is not the answer to this,” Snohomish Police Chief John Flood told the forum.
Cmdr. Pat Slack of the Snohomish County Drug and Gang Task Force said addicts need treatment, medicine and called the heroin epidemic a social issue, not a law enforcement issue. The barriers revolve around mental health and money, he said.
“We go out and do site visits and make social contacts,” Slack said. “This is homeless groups, this is people squatting, this is drug and nuisance houses. Our goal, really, is to provide them with services and break that cycle…I go out and talk to people, my detectives go out and talk to people, two weeks later we go back out to talk to people, and they’re dead. ‘Susie’s not there anymore,’ (or) ‘Billy didn’t make it.’ I’m really tired of that shit. It doesn’t serve any purpose, but they’re human beings and they have an addiction.”
“We have to tap the addiction level,” Slack added.
One panelist was Hope Soldiers founder and former heroin addict Lindsey Greinke, 27, who spoke about her journey, her losses and her hope.
Greinke has been sober for five years and created Hope Soldiers, an Everett-based nonprofit, to help other addicts without money or insurance find and get into treatment programs and recover their lives again.
“I lost everything in a matter of three months – I lost custody of my son, I lost my job, I lost my house; that
is everybody’s story that I know who’ve been influenced by heroin, there is a lot of loss,” Greinke said, describing her grappling with her addictions. “And I will tell you, my life has gotten harder since I’ve gotten clean. Because I had to start over, completely. Yes, there is hard times and I know who I am today and I know why I’m
here. I’m here to spread hope. There is still so much hope.”
Greinke said her org-anization helps walk addicts, step-by-step, through the process of getting into treatment and recovery.
Greinke also shared that she helps parents and family
members of addicts and that inspiring the community to be part of the solution, through forums and town hall meetings, “to get people rallied up and create a sense of revival;” instead of creating a divide from lack of education.
As people in the forum Thursday night took up the microphone to ask questions, the panel intently listened and gave answers. The topics covered included addiction issues with family who are users, enablers, property crimes, nuisance or drug houses, what to do when people find needles (don’t touch them, ever), and treatment programs.
“I just want to let you know there is so much hope, so
much hope,” Greinke said. “The cool thing is, that your community — your officials, your police department, the county — they recognize what’s going on. If we unite together and work as one, we can fight this together. We’re never going to get rid of addiction… but what we can do, is we can create a lot of hope and live in the solution. And we can help other people recover.”

 

Related stories on heroin:

- Naloxone heroin overdose kits explained

 

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