Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson’s four-pronged action plan to stem the spread of heroin use in the city is a good plan.
If the mayor can succeed in finding funding for one or two more police officers, more patrols, and cameras in parks — and if residents watch their neighborhoods and report suspicious activity — Poulsbo will be a difficult place to sell or use heroin. We’ll likely see a reduction in drug-related crime here. Drug education in schools, which the mayor calls for in her plan, will help, particularly if students can meet and hear from people who have struggled with addiction.
But it’s not enough. The misery of addiction will not be gone; it will simply move elsewhere. We need to understand that what happens in one part of the county affects the whole county.
That’s why, if you support the mayor’s plan, you should be concerned that the City of Bremerton may close one of three needle exchanges in Kitsap County. Needle exchanges are important to public health because they help stop the spread of blood-borne diseases, like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and ensure used needles are properly disposed of.
If you support the mayor’s plan, you should know this: According to the National Office on Drug Control Policy, there are more than 2,500 drug courts in operation in the United States — including Kitsap County — and approximately 120,000 Americans annually receive the help they need to break the cycle of addiction and recidivism. A study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that, nationally, recidivism among all drug court participants ranged from 5 to 28 percent and less than 4 percent for drug court graduates.
As we step up our efforts to stem the tide of heroin in our communities, we need to ensure Kitsap County’s Drug Court has the resources it needs to keep pace.
If you support the mayor’s plan, you should know the role illegal use of prescription drugs, particularly opiates, have in our county’s heroin problem. Prescriptions should come with information about proper storage and disposal, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department’s drug take-back program.
The mayor’s plan should be adopted countywide, with the addition of access to treatment as a component — and a public that is aware of and willing to rise to the challenge.