Snohomish Co. holds forum to try to find ways to end heroin epidemic

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. -- We know people are addicted and we know people are dying.  But what’s the answer to the growing heroin epidemic that’s engulfing Snohomish County?

The county makes up just 10% percent of the state’s population, but 20% of heroin-related deaths.

Those alarming numbers forced county leaders to host four forums across the region.  The first took place Thursday night at Cavelero Mid-High School in Lake Stevens.  Law enforcement, health officials, and community members all gathered for one cause: to learn more about the heroin epidemic and figure out how to fight it.

“He was just such a great lovable kid, very intelligent, very athletic and could have done anything he wanted,” said Debbie Warfiled, the mother of Spencer Warfield, who died of a heroin overdose.

But Debbie Warfield’s son got hooked on heroin.

“He was not happy, he was using drugs but got into the cycle and just had a really hard time getting out,” said Warfield.

Spencer died four years ago from a heroin overdose.  But she shared their story for the first time at a community forum in Lake Stevens.

“I’d like to see it recognized as an illness. I would like the medical profession to treat it as a mental health issue.  Definitely needs to be funded,” said Warfield.

But voters in Snohomish County shot down a tax hike that would have added sheriff's deputies and treatment resources.

“We still have a problem, whether the tax was passed or not, so we still have to find solutions,” said Snohomish Health District Director Dr. Gary Goldbaum.

For now, part of that solution is a drug called Naloxone.  Forum participants were taught how to administer it to someone overdosing.

“When someone overdoses, they stop breathing and literally suffocates to death and this can reverse that in a matter of minutes,” said Goldbaum.

It’s a temporary fix to a problem these experts say impacts us all.

“A lot of time it's petty crimes, property crimes; the shoplifts, the thefts from houses, vehicle theft,” said Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Bureau Chief Nelson Beazley.

Here’s a list of the remaining three forums.

September 20 – Tulalip Resort, Tulalip

September 27 – Byrnes Performing Arts Center, Arlington

October 13 – Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood