Fighting SCV’s opioid crisis one step at a time

Susan DiMartini, even coordinator and toastmaster, left, introduces the speakers for the Opioid Crisis workshop at the Valencia Public Library. Seated, left to right, are Ali Kasra, Mindy Williams, Cary Quashen and Marc Richards. photo courtesy of Lisa Kaul, Quest Toastmasters.
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About 60 people showed up Thursday night to hear about the opioid crisis and, specifically, about “seeking solutions for pain relief.”

While they didn’t find the solution Thursday to the national crisis, the panel took steps in that direction simply by talking about it.

The opportunity to address both the nationwide opioid epidemic and pain management was afforded by the people who held the workshop, those at the Valencia Public Library who offered a place to meet and those with Quest Toastmasters who sparked the discussion.

One baby step each family in the Santa Clarita Valley can take toward stopping the opioid crisis entering their home was a recommendation offered by Cary Quashen, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s executive director of Behavioral Health and founder of Action Drug Counseling, who works with drug addicts in the SCV every day.

“Talk to your kids,” he said. “Be the one they are connected to.

Then Quashen screamed. He yelled out “I love you,” showing everyone in the packed room what they should say to their kids and how they should say it.

He also reminded attendees that their child may not want to be seen being told “I love you” — in which case the parent should scream “I love you.”

Staying connected with children before they use their gateway drug — which he listed as cigarettes, beer and marijuana, to name a few — is a way to offset the unprecedented power of peer pressure made possible through cellphones.

“The last person they talk to at night is their friends,” Quashen said about cellphone use. “The first person they talk to in the morning is their friends.  When they’re at school they’re with their friends and when they come home their friends are there (via their cellphone).”

If anyone in the workshop needed an example of just how devastating drug addiction can be, they heard it in the life of recovering heroin addict Mindy Williams, who referred to herself at one point as “a poor little rich girl from Santa Clarita.”

“When I did heroin for the first time it was with a needle.  It was like nothing I had ever felt before.  I would never be the same.

“I was addicted to heroin for three years.  I lost my husband. My life was in the toilet and I was living in my car,” she said.

She had been in and out of rehab five times, she said.

“I never thought I was worth it,” she said.

Then, her family gave her “one last chance” to get clean, she said.  She took that challenge, she said.  She’s been sober since 2011.

Opioids are drugs that possess some properties characteristic of opiate narcotics but which are not derived from opium.

The nationwide opioid crisis became a local issue in April 2017,  when at least seven people showed up in the emergency room of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital with overdoses of opiates.

The latest statistics released by the California Department of Public Health show a sharp upturn in the number of heroin overdose deaths across the state since 2012.

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