Over 25 people gathered in a meeting room at New Bridge Community Church to take part in a conversation about the national trend of increased IV drug use. Local service providers helped frame the discussion and shared their experiences. Chief Ronnie Roberts from the Olympia Police Department talked about the policing aspect and reminded us that Olympia is one of the few jurisdictions in the area with a true “downtown” so in many ways it serves as the downtown for most of the County. Joe Avalos from Thurston County Public Health and John Lanning from Providence St. Peter Hospital both talked about the realities of addiction and the current challenge that there is more demand than availability for services, including the County-run needle exchange program and many of the rehab/detox options. Jeff Doyle, a volunteer with EGYHOP (Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Program), shared the realities of needle exchange and that the demographics of those using this service include housed populations. He also shared how there is a strong sense of pride in Olympia’s street culture, with many individuals initiating their own cleanups of downtown areas.
Those gathered talked about moving forward from this conversation toward action. Ideas included: speaking up at City Council meetings, organizing with Thurston County Health to do “sweeps” of our neighborhood parks, encouraging the jurisdictions and professionals to collaborate, lobbying for more open hours for the Thurston County needles exchange, installing a permanent needle drop in the urban core somewhere outside, and looking at how other cities and counties are dealing with the problem.
Some individuals who attended the meeting plan to organize a spring sweep of one of our neighborhood parks.
Documents distributed at meeting:
Minutes submitted by Eastside resident Joellen Wilhelm