Youth drug use, detox access top forum Qs
Detective David Chitwood responds to an answer while Bart Wheaton and Ed Bremer look on.
SNOHOMISH — The Sno-Isle Libraries’ public forum on drugs last week at the Snohomish Library brought in about 30 community members from many walks of life.
Another forum at the Monroe library is set for Thursday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.
Local radio personality KSER-FM’s news director Ed Bremer is moderating the public forums.
“There is no Mayberry anymore,” Bremer told the Snohomish audience. “Heroin and other illegal drugs are taking a toll on the health and security of all of our communities. That’s why we are here tonight.”
The forum featured two experts on the topic: Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force detective David Chitwood and Catholic Community Services counselor Bart Wheaton.
Together, they answered questions and discussed statistics and stories regarding drugs in the area.
“If you think about it with Highway 2, Interstate 5 and the waterway and railway, we have a lot of different ways that drugs come into our communities,” Chitwood said. “Unfortunately, that’s how we (formed) the Task Force.”
The Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is a a multi-agency organization with personnel assigned from agencies around the county: the sheriff’s office, Snohomish Health District and other agencies that together work on higher-level cases in the region.
Wheaton works with mostly at-risk youth who have chemical dependency issues.
“What people don’t understand about addiction is that they think it’s a choice,” Wheaton said. “But what I understand about drug addiction is that it’s a disease” identified as such by medical associations. “A lot of the at-risk kids I work with have
addiction-affected friends who start at an early age with drug addiction and alcoholism.”
Many question topics centering on local youth, drug education and access to treatment.
“Why do we have to accept that drugs are in Snohomish? Why can’t we stop the heroin?” Rachel, a mother of an addict, asked the panel.
Bremer helped shape her question: “What will have to happen if the community said, ‘No more heroin’?”
Chitwood replied that the community needed to get together and take action to prevent the presence of drugs in the community by doing things such as block watches, being communicative with law enforcement, reporting suspicious activity and reporting crime.
“People talking to each other and getting involved – that’s how you take back your community,” Chitwood said.
Another mother of a heroin addict who overdosed in his 30s spoke up. She tearfully shared how her son died from a heroin overdose.
The mother also said her son had been ready to go to rehab before he died.
“When he was ready to go to rehab, he couldn’t get in to rehab,” she said.
Her comments sparked a discussion on access to detoxification programs in the county.
There are local support groups and youth drug courts that offer access to programs.
One person shared that she is part of a local support group in Monroe called Helping Hands, which is a narcotics anonymous family group (www.nar-anon.com).
“The biggest factor for kids is family,” Wheaton said.
Educating youth about drugs at an early age could help with prevention. It starts at home, Wheaton said.
Chitwood agreed. The two of them shared with attendees what signs to look for in one’s child if parents suspect drug activity, such as:
• Sudden change in attitude and behavior, like not honoring curfew times or other parent-set rules. Also look for a the change in disposition.
• Are they moodier? Are they hanging out with new friends that seem to influence a “bad attitude?”
• Missing valuables in the house.
• Change in friends or extracurricular activities, such as quitting a sport they loved and not wanting to participate in other regular activities (church, sports, volunteer, camps, etc.)