Pubdate: Fri, 25 Apr 2014
Source: Redwood Times (Garberville, CA)
Copyright: 2014 MediaNews Group
Author: Will Houston, The Times-Standard
Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our editors
may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who have not been
convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise public figures or


While Humboldt County is normally seen as a mecca for marijuana, local
officials say another drug has found a stronghold on the North Coast
- -- heroin.

"Heroin has really blown up," Eureka Police Sgt. Michael Guy of the
Problem Oriented Policing unit said. "It's everywhere and in every
walk of life."

Most recently, 4 pounds of heroin were seized by the county Drug Task
Force in what Sheriff's Office Lt. Steve Knight called the largest
heroin seizure in Humboldt County history.

"The ripple effect of taking this quantity of heroin is big," Knight
said. "Unfortunately, someone will fill the void down the road."

The $200,000 worth of heroin was found after a sheriff's deputy
noticed the suspicious behavior of a driver and his passenger during a
late night traffic stop in Eureka on April 11. After questioning the
driver -- 20-year-old [name redacted] of Perris -- and his
18-year-old passenger, the deputy found they were providing
inconsistent answers. [name redacted] was arrested on scene for driving on a
suspended license, and was released on April 12.

After the car was impounded, the task force obtained a search warrant
and found the large stash in a hidden compartment. Knight said the
task force is working to obtain arrest warrants for "multiple suspects."

"A tenth of a gram costs about $20, which is about one to up to three
doses," Knight said. "When you have 4 pounds of it, you're talking
close to 18,000 dosage units."

After 20 years in the EPD, Guy said that he has noticed that the
community has become "numbed to the drug activity," which he partially
attributes to the county's marijuana culture.

"Back when I started out, if you had an ounce of heroin, you were
really someone," Guy said. "Now it's just not as big of a deal. Kind
of like another day at work."

While Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills said Eureka is a "drug-laden
community," he was suspicious of whether a stash of that size was
targeted only for Humboldt County. Throughout the U.S., Mills said the
rise in heroin use can be directly attributed to the increased
production and trafficking from Mexican drug cartels.

"An intelligence report from Stratfor (a geopolitical intelligence
firm) about four years ago said that the Mexican drug cartels would
move from marijuana to more profitable drugs, such as heroin," Mills
said. "So that, in fact, is exactly what happened."

In November 2013, Humboldt County was listed as one of Northern
California's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas by the federal
government, which opened it up to new funding resources and a more
inclusive partnership with federal agencies.

Coroner Dave Parris said that about half of the average 30 to 35
overdose deaths per year in the county are related to heroin or one of
its derivatives, such as morphine.

"Statistically, it is difficult to track," Parris said. "Often times,
overdoses are caused by multiple drug use, some are using street
drugs, some are using pharmaceuticals. Heroin can sometimes come back
with a false reading of morphine."

Of the 174 accidental overdose deaths in the county from 2009 to 2013,
four deaths were determined to be directly caused by heroin, but 39
deaths were caused by opiates and opioids such as oxycodone and
morphine, according to data from the county Department of Health and
Human Services Alcohol and Other Drugs program.

Multi-drug overdoses were the most frequent cause of death, with 98
deaths during the five-year period.

"It's becoming a trend, and it's being used more and more all of the
time," Parris said.

While heroin was mainly injected using a hypodermic needle in decades
past, Knight said he has seen a rise in people smoking it or ingesting
pharmaceutical opiates such as Oxycontin.

"A lot of the stigma with heroin among the youth is not there, when it
used to be," Knight said. "Smoking it is just as addictive as
injecting it with a needle."

Despite these other methods, Guy said officers in the POP unit are
still arresting the same users "over and over again" -- and they still
find plenty of needles.

"We took a guy to jail the other day who had a syringe broken off in
his forearm," Guy said.

After California passed Proposition 36 in 2000, non-violent drug
offenders could choose to enroll in court-mandated drug treatment
programs as part of their probation.

 From 2012 to 2013, 557 clients entered the Humboldt County Department
of Health and Human Services' Alcohol and Other Drugs program, with
about 400 being sent by the court. The rest signed themselves up.

Alcohol and Other Drugs supervising health clinician and Healthy Moms
program director Sue Grenfell said the mandated treatment may seem
forced, but it is also effective.

"Those who have the court behind them are going to be more successful
than someone who is self-referred because it helps them stay
accountable for their actions, especially if they know they're
accountable to their probation officer," Grenfell said.

Of the 557 clients, 133 of the court-referred patients completed the
program, compared to 42 of the self-referred clients during the
two-year period. Another 68 court-referred clients and 40
self-referred clients left the program with a satisfactory progress
determination, meaning they did not complete the program but were
showing signs of headway.

In the Healthy Moms program -- an addiction treatment program for
pregnant mothers or mothers of young children -- Grenfell said that
alcohol and meth abuse are the most prevalent addictions. About one in
10 were being treated for heroin use.

"Addiction can touch any part of the population. It's pretty
non-discriminatory," Grenfell said. "No one starts out using drugs and
alcohol to become an addict. It starts because it is either fun, or
that's the only way they know how to cope with their emotions. Some
people are raised in families where the culture of violence or drug
addiction is all they know."

Despite the intent of the programs, Guy said he does not think it is
not enough.

"I don't see a solution in sight," Guy said. "A depressed economy
tends to lead to more drug abuse and activity."

Knight said education and early communication will be "key" to
reversing the rising trend of heroin abuse.

"Until we stop the demand, there will always be a supply," Knight
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D