More than 300 people gathered at the Santa Clarita Activities Center on Wednesday evening to hear from a panel of experts about the dangers of drug abuse and what the city is doing to raise awareness and combat a pressing issue in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The third annual Heroin Kills Symposium comes a year after heroin-related deaths reached a peak locally. By the time of the Heroin Kills Symposium 2012, nine young adults had died from overdoses or related problems. The total for the year reached 16.
“This year, we’ve had two fatalities,” said City Manager Ken Striplin, who emceed the event. “But that is still two, too many.”
After opening remarks from Mayor Bob Kellar, Carl Goldman of KHTS AM-1220 spoke to the audience about “The Experience,” an exhibit on wheels being developed in cooperation with Action Family Counseling to explain the dangers of drug use.
Then the discussion was opened to the panel, featuring Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies, a doctor of emergency medicine from Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Cary Quashen of Action Family Counseling, Tim and Susan Traurig of A Light of Hope Support Center and the director of student services from the William S. Hart Union High School District.
Members of the high school anti-drug program DFYit also spoke.
Detective William Velek and Deputy Josh Dubin warned parents about the signs of drug abuse in teenagers and young adults and the availability of drugs through social media.
Velek said that young adults often hide drugs where parents would never think to look, such as inside a tennis ball or lint brush, anything with a hollow space inside.
Dubin reminded parents that for kids, who “can’t remember a time when computers didn’t exist,” virtual peer pressure can be very dangerous.
Installing parental control software can help control online activity, but Dubin also said that it is important for parents to educate themselves about what is out there and to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs.
One-on-one with Deputy Josh Dubin.
Dr. Darrin Privitt of Henry Mayo knows too well what a drug overdose looks like.
He said that a heroin overdose can cause respiratory arrest, because the drug suppresses breathing.
Heroin Kills Symposium 2013There is an antidote available that can immediately reverse the effects of heroin, and Privitt warned those in the audience to never hesitate to call 911 if they are with someone who is overdosing, even if they fear the legal repercussions, because a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
Ultimately, a proactive approach is the best way to avoid tragedy.
“Any death or any complication associated with heroin is preventable,” Privitt said.
Quashen added faces to the numbers when he asked anyone involved in Action’s recovery programs to stand. More than 30 people stood.
“You hear about the deaths, but you don’t hear about the successes,” he said.
And Quashen reminded the audience that the battle against drugs is a national one.
“We don’t have any more drugs here in Santa Clarita than in any other city in America,” he said. “We talk about it more here in Santa Clarita than any other city in America.”