Pubdate: Thu, 01 May 2014
Source: Waikato Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 Independent Newspapers Limited
Author: Florence Kerr


Protests Bring Results but 'Still Work to Be Done', Reports Florence Kerr.

Legal highs may have been effectively banned by the Government but a 
Tokoroa woman who started a nationwide campaign against the drugs is 
not resting.

Julie King is short in stature - 1.52m tall - but this Kiwi battler 
has fought her demons and won.

Until May last year the mother of four held herself captive in her 
bedroom for two years, suffering from bipolar disorder - a condition 
that causes people to swing between being manic and being depressed.

She has been admitted to the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health 
facility at Waikato Hospital on several occasions.

But she credits her disorder for coming in "handy" during her fight 
in securing a synthetic high-free New Zealand.

A near-death experience caused by her own hand was the turning point for King.

"I was in ICU and had a spiritual encounter," she said.

"I had this feeling I had to take signs and to preach, but about what?

"I didn't know yet."

Unable at that point to be around people, King kept her finger on the 
pulse through social media.

"I'd been hearing a few stories about synthetics so I put it up on 
the Genuine Tokoroa page on Facebook.

"I got a series of replies about the community's concerns and 
experiences with the drug."

The rest, as they say, is history.

On May 7, 2013, King, armed with a sign that read "K2 is full of poo, 
so getta clue and stay true" (sic) stood alone on a traffic island in 
the middle of Tokoroa's main street and protested against the drug 
which was being sold in the town's dairies.

She received honks from vehicles driving past and a number of 
supporters came forward.

With that action, the woman who found it difficult to be with other 
people spurred the community to take the town back.

Earlier this year a nationwide protest against the drug was organised 
by the campaigner and volunteers.

"It took just three weeks to get 24 communities around New Zealand to 
join the protest. It shows that New Zealand wants it gone."

But she is not one to rest on her laurels.

"Nah, I'm not patting myself on the back, there is still work to do."

Work that she has already immersed herself in.

She has set up a support group for synthetic cannabis addicts and 
their families.

The group was set up when King learned the health system was not 
prepared for an influx of synthetic users needing help.

"I rang the Ministry of Health and they don't have brochures about 
the drug and we don't have the resources to cope, with only a small 
number of rehabilitation centres in the region." It is an issue she 
has discussed in depth with National MP Todd McClay. During her time 
campaigning the good fight, she has also found time to set up Love 
Soup, a kitchen to feed those in need.

The kitchen, which began in Tokoroa, now has branches around New 
Zealand. So why does a woman with a bubbly personality, who fights 
for the underdog, do it?

"I want to help people. I don't want people to experience what I have 
been through. Just knowing someone is here is all some people need to 
begin to change."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom