One of the several booths in City Hall that provided information to help those struggling with addiction. Barbara Ramey/City of Bothell

City of Bothell holds community meeting to educate locals on opioid addiction

The City of Bothell held a special meeting Thursday night to educate locals on the dangers of opioid addiction, which is increasingly prevalent in the community.

Members of the community filled the room at City Hall to hear guest speakers present and discuss “Local Perspectives on Opioid Addiction.” The meeting was hosted by Community Conversations and featured Bothell Police Chief Carol Cummings, Cleo Harris, a treatment specialist at Snohomish County Human Services and two community members who shared their experiences with addiction.

The meeting began with a testimonial from Linda, whose son struggled with a heroin addiction. This was followed by a presentation from Harris, who gave a rundown of opiates and outlined the biology behind addiction.

In addition, Harris spoke about naloxone or Narcan, a medication that can counteract an overdose. The drug works by blocking the body’s natural opiate receptors, which are overwhelmed during an overdose and as a result, tell the body to stop breathing.

Some police officers now carry a form of naloxone to help prevent deaths from overdose. At the time of the presentation, there had been 114 opioid overdose reversals and 1,500 law enforcement officers trained to use naloxone in Snohomish County.

Cummings spoke on the recent spike in opioid abuse and the correlated rise in property crimes, such as car prowls. She said that based on the officers she’s talked to, 80-90 percent of the people who commit property crimes, are high.

This statistic isn’t backed up by case reports, but every officer Cummings spoke to gave similar percentages.

“One officer told me he’s actually gotten to the point, when he arrests somebody for a property crime who is not addicted to drugs, he’s surprised,” she said.

Cummings went on to talk about how opioid addiction often stems from prescription drugs, not just illegal drugs. Black tar heroin is more common locally, according to Cummings, but Fentanyl, a highly potent pain medication, could become dangerously prevalent soon.

“As the medical examiner says, he thinks it’s just a matter of time,” Cummings said. “We’ve had two cases recently…where we got the drug labs back and there was Fentanyl in it.”

The final speaker, a community member named Ben, gave an account of his own struggles with addiction. Ben was able to get the help he needed through Narcotics Anonymous and has now been clean for more than four years.

“I was pretty fortunate, I was able to stop at a young age,” Ben said. “But I’ve harmed a lot of people in my life…the closest people to me, I harmed the most.”

Neither Ben nor Linda shared their last names with the audience.

The meeting ended with a community comment period, which brought questions about safe injection sites for narcotics users in Bothell. City manager Jennifer Phillips said council has no plans to discuss the subject but may consider it in the new year.

The entire panel urged everyone to get educated on addiction and talk about it with anyone who may be struggling. For more information on preventing overdoses, visit stopoverdose.org.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this, it will not work,” Cummings said. “You have to be ready for treatment to have it work…our police officers, they’re not mental health workers, they’re not counselors. That’s not their training, but we’re learning.”

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