Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Chandler

ICAN-23_crop-150x150Hopefully many people across the state heard about and/or watched “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” on Tuesday, January 13th. The 30-minute documentary was produced by the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and aired on all local stations through a partnership with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. I watched the documentary with fellow members of our Chandler community at City Hall and was just as shocked as many in the room by what I learned. If you missed it, visit http://hookedaz.cronkitenewsonline.com/.

The documentary brings to light a growing epidemic in our state which is heroin use. Law enforcement has seen a sharp increase in heroin-related arrests and overdoses from the substance since 2007. Drug deaths topped even the number of motor vehicle deaths in Arizona in 2013, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. In October, the Centers for Disease Control reported that heroin overdose deaths across the country have increased from 2,679 in 2011 to 3,635 in 2012. Arizona was one of the 28 states cited in the report for an increase in heroin deaths.

Hooked-Image The documentary wasn’t just about statistics; it focused more on a number of real-life stories about our neighbors and friends who have been devastated by drug addiction. They followed a beautiful young couple from Chandler who were in the midst of battling their addiction. Hearing their sincere words about the struggles they were facing on a daily basis added a genuine face to this issue. The Chandler Police Department also contributed and talked about how heroin is their number one problem they are dealing with right now.

The drug comes from Mexico through the border and the quantities are increasing – U.S. Customs’ seizures of the drug increased from 125 to 250 kilos year over year in 2013. County Attorney Bill Montgomery stated, “Maricopa County is the distribution hub for the Sinaloa Cartel’s heroin market in the United States.”

The January 13th viewing of the piece was a partnership among many Chandler organizations – ICAN, along with our Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA), partnered with the City of Chandler, Chandler PD, Chandler Valley Hope, Chandler Unified School District, Terros, Not My Kid, My Sister’s Place, MADD, For Our City, ACE Sober Living and Teen Challenge. All of these organizations have valuable resources to help our community deal with this situation.

Here at ICAN we are focused on education. Our youth attend daily evidenced-based programs that include “Too Good for Drugs” where we provide information about the negative consequences of drug use and the benefits of a nonviolent, drug-free lifestyle. Youth also participate in “Steps to Respect” which promotes healthy decision making skills to prevent negative behaviors. “Botvin’s Life Skills” help develop socioemotional skills aimed at reducing impulsive and aggressive behavior while increasing social competence.

Our teens participate in similar program, and our Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse gets those teens out in the community educating their fellow teens, along with adults, on the dangers of substance abuse.

So what can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Educate yourself – start by watching the documentary and reading some of articles that go along with the series at http://hookedaz.cronkitenewsonline.com/
  2. Educate your children – it is never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs. Visit http://www.drugfreeazkids.org/TalkWithYourKids for ways to get started.
  3. Lock up or dispose of your prescriptions – we have FREE prescription lock boxes here at ICAN, call (480) 821-4207 to schedule a time to pick one up. You can also properly dispose of your old prescription drugs through dropboxes at Chandler PD substations.
  4. Looks for the signs – Chandler PD shared that some items to keep an eye out for include tin foil (used as storage), balloons (used for transportation) and black fingerprints (from the black tar heroin).
  5. Report suspicious activity – Chandler PD also shared that you can call them to report suspicious activity – even if a crime has not been committed they have resources to get the person the help they need.

Officials in the documentary estimate that 20% of our country’s 16-20 year-old age group will be entirely LOST to this epidemic if this issue is not addressed. Please help do your part through the suggestions listed above. We all agree our youth need our guidance on many issues in their lives and this is one aspect that could save many lives.

Becky Jackson
President & CEO
ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth