At the end of a long troubling week for Santa Clarita Valley residents waking up to the inescapable truth that Los Angeles County’s awesome family community to the north has a heroin epidemic, the man who fights the local fight daily against addiction has a place for all of us to start.
Put the cell phone down.
“We need to spend time with our kids,” Cary Quashen, Henry Mayo Executive Director of Behavioral Health and Director of Action Family Counseling, told The Signal Friday.
The week began with news that 28-year-old David Alexander Esquivel, of Castaic, was found dead Sunday in a bathroom at Bouquet Canyon Park of an apparent overdose. On Monday, eight overdose patients ended up at the hospital.
On Tuesday, Quashen joined emergency room physician Dr. Bud Lawrence for a “hastily called” press conference at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital to address the sudden rash of overdose cases being treated.
“When we see eight people coming to the emergency room with overdoses we have to get the message out there,” Quashen said Tuesday.
On Friday, the man who talks to addicts day and night sat down with The Signal to do just that – get his message out.
“We need to speak to our kids,” he said. “About alcohol, drugs, sex, violence, dating, when they’re three years old and six and seven. It’s not a conversation we have once when they’re teenagers.
“It’s a conversation we have always.”
“If we’re watching a TV show and there some kind of situation that you can use as a teaching moment, use it.
“If we’re going to dinner with your kids, put your phone in your pocket,” he said. “I was at the local restaurant the other night and I’m walking from my table to the restroom – everyone is on their phone.
“The kids are texting their friends. Mom is checking her Facebook to see how many ‘Likes” there are and the dad – who knows where he is. He’s out in space.
“So even when we’re present now when it comes to social media, we’re not present anymore.”
“I speak to parents and I say ‘Tell me how do you speak to your kids. Well, we communicate by texting, from the bedroom to the living room.’
“Get up and talk to each other, “Quashen said.
“So, if you want to know why we’re having an epidemic, it’s pretty simple:
– Number one, lack of family involvement.
– Extreme peer pressure when it comes to adolescents right now, for young adults and even adults.
– Prescription medication that is stronger than its ever been before.
– Lack of concern about lesser drugs, as we call them. I’m hearing all this ‘Heroin kills.’ Yeah, we know that.
“How about? All drugs are bad. How about we educate our kids – ‘if you start using drugs there can be tremendous consequences.’ Versus ‘Ah, smoke some weed don’t worry about it, don’t use hard drugs. That doesn’t work.
The other thing I think adults need to do, is to act like you talk, walk like you talk. This ‘Do what I say, not what I do’ doesn’t work.
“If, as a parent, you come home and drink eight shots of tequila, take three benzos to go to sleep, smoke some weed in the bedroom – our kids know that.
“We really have to be the role model we want to be.”
Looking to the future, Quashen said: “I think everyone should be afraid. Fear is not a bad thing. Knowledge is power.
“Educate yourself about substance abuse. If you think you have a problem, you do. It wouldn’t cross your mind otherwise.
“If you think your child is having an issue, they probably are. Go with your gut.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt