Heroin use, deaths getting attention of Pierce, Thurston officials

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 17 at 6:00 PM

TACOMA, Wash. Raymond Power remembers the first time he tried heroin.

"One time with that," said Power, "And you're hooked basically."

Power started using heroin because he could no longer afford prescription drugs like Oxycontin.

Heroin was cheaper and easier to find.

Those are the reasons blamed for a sharp increase in heroin use and heroin-related deaths across Washington.

Those trends have the attention of elected officials in Pierce and Thurston counties.

Sheriffs from the respective counties met with the mayors of Olympia and Tacoma, county commmissioners and other city and health officials Monday morning to discuss potential solutions to the increased heroin use and deaths.

According to a study from the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, heroin-related deaths nearly doubled across the state of Washington over the past decade.
In Thurston County between 2000 and 2002, 12 people died from heroin overdoses. Between 2009 and 2011, the number jumped to 58.

"The important thing to do is to recognize a problem early and start intervening in that problem, that's what today was about," said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, who attended the summit Wednesday morning.

Pastor said the key to fighting drugs is to increase enforcement, education, treatment and community action.

He said budget cuts have made it tougher for agencies to fight the problem and in some cases, have made it worse.

"Local governments are not as well-equipped to meet the demand that sometimes comes from cost-cutting. That applies to drugs as well," said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

"That drug grabs you and doesn't let go," said Power, who uses methadone from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to get over his heroin addiction.

Power is studying electrican engineering at Bates College.

He said raising awareness about the community treatment centers, along with providing more services for addicts would save lives and turn users into productive members of society.

"I've changed my life around completely," said Power.

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