Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s J-Team released figures to KHTS AM-1220 on Thursday that show drug-overdose deaths have decreased dramatically so far this year, compared to last year’s figures.
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“In 2012, we had 16 overdose deaths for the whole year and, this year, we had four,” said Sgt. Bob Wachsmuth, who works with the Juvenile Intervention Team, or J-Team, at Santa Clarita’s Station.
The program, which focuses on juvenile narcotics abuses, was started by Sheriff’s Station Capt. Paul Becker, who worked with city and school officials to revamp how drugs were addressed locally, Wachsmuth said.
Officials are hopeful these most recent numbers represent a more lasting change in a trend that has been noted as a national problem.
“I think it’s a combination of education and enforcement — the J-Team and the narcotics units working together, with the city of Santa Clarita with their Heroin Kills seminar, and the DFYiT program with the (William S. Hart Union High School District) education aspect; and the diversionary aspect of it,” Wachsmuth said. “The kids are being given another chance by counseling programs, such as Action, and the programs they have in the (Santa Clarita Valley).”
There are a number of programs provided by Action Family Counseling, with support from the Action Family Foundation.
“We don’t just want to say to them, ‘Hey, don’t do drugs, hang out with different people.’ We want them to think differently — we want them to want to do things differently,” said Cary Quashen, founder of Action Family Counseling, which works with the city of Santa Clarita. “We want them to be happy about going to sleep and we want them to be happy about waking up and showing up for life.”
At a series of town halls Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar hosted earlier this year, Becker referred to his tactics as a “three-pronged approach,” focusing on education, intervention and enforcement.
“While even one fatal overdose is too many, the efforts of many have been making an impact,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar. “As a community, we must continue to work together to stop these pointless and tragic losses.”
He pointed to the efforts of the Heroin Kills campaign, and the school district partnership for DFYiT, which is now in its second year, as part of the success, in addition to the efforts of law enforcement.
The number of drug-overdose deaths climbed for the first three years the station tracked the numbers, according to Wachsmuth, which was, at least in part, a product of J-Team officials gaining a better understanding of the issue and the numbers.
There were five drug-related overdoses in 2010; seven in 2011; 16 in 2012, and four, so far, in 2013.
“The deaths were predominantly opiate-driven,” Wachsmuth said.
Although it’s not always heroin, sometimes it’s a prescription abuse such as oxycontin or hydrocodone.
There was one death in 2010 that involved multiple drug usage; there was one cocaine overdose in 2011; there was one methamphetamine-related death in 2012; and all drug-overdose deaths in 2013 have been heroin-related, according to Sheriff’s Station officials
Wachsmuth stressed the importance of the cohesive approach locally, adding that the programs are really only effective if they work in conjunction with one another, between the city, schools and Sheriff’s Station.
“I don’t think that one element of those three prongs would be more responsible than the next,” Wachsmuth added. “I think it’s a three-legged stool. You need all three legs to work.”
While the results are positive, there’s still work to be done to stay on top of the problem, Wachsmuth said.
“We’re finally on top of it, instead of being behind it,” he said, “And since we have a winning strategy, we’re not going to back off.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News