Matthew in the Middle: Put ‘Addicts Among Us’ on your ‘must watch’ list

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KEET-TV PBS in partnership with NCHIIN (North Coast Health Improvement and Information Network) will be screening the documentary film “Addicts Among Us” this Thursday, Dec. 5 at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka starting at 6 p.m. The event will also feature a panel discussion after the screening. You can stream this documentary now at the PBS website: https://www.pbs.org/show/addicts-among-us.

This documentary is based here in Humboldt County and you will recognize many of the people interviewed for this documentary from Morgan Omaha, a recovering addict; Wes Harrison, executive director, North Coast Substance Abuse Council; Stephanie Weldon, former director, Humboldt County Child Welfare Services; Billy Honsal Jr., Humboldt County sheriff; Carmela Wegner, marriage family therapist; Thomas Steenblock of Open Door Community Health Center; Dr. Evan Buxbaum, Fortuna pediatrician; Dr. Candy Stockton, medical director, Humboldt IPA (Independent Practice Association, not the beer); Mary Ann Hanson, First 5 Humboldt; Jessica Ateman, licensed marriage and family therapist; Dr. Ruby Bayan and John McManus Waterfront Recovery Center; Tim Grimmett, principal, and Jessie Freedman, counselor, South Fortuna Elementary School; Chris Hartley, superintendent, Humboldt County Office of Education; Omar Khattab, principal, Lincoln Educational Center; Justin Nadigoo, senior deputy probation officer; Joyce Hinrichs, presiding judge, Humboldt County Superior Court; Vanessa Vrtiak, former program coordinator of the RAVEN Project (now with Humboldt IPA); James Faulk, a recovering addict and writer, husband and father, and his loving wife, Amy Stem-Faulk; Dr. Corey Waller, Health Management Systems; Eureka Police Department Sgt. Leonard LaFrance, CSET (Community Safety Enhancement Team) leader; Brian Olson, resource coordinator, St. Joseph’s Health System; EPD Sgt. Ryan Swanson, MIST (Mobile Intervention Services Team) officer.

The documentary is showing how ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) from physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; and dysfunctional homes stemming from parents with mental illnesses, incarcerated (jail) parents, abusive parents towards each other, drug and alcohol addictions and divorce all play a role in how a child today transforms into the adult they become in the future.

They theorize that children who deal with six or more of the above ACEs scores could shorten their lives by 20 years. Humboldt and Mendocino Counties ACEs scores are among the highest in the state. 31% of our Humboldt County residents have four or more ACEs, which is off the charts. Humboldt County (12.1%) has more than double the state’s average (5.8%) of children in foster care. This should tell you we have a major problem here. Traumatized children usually become traumatized adults. Even worse, the child welfare service involvement in the Native American community was five times that of the White community and 10 times that of the Hispanic community. Babies aren’t born with aggression or violent tendencies. It’s learned habits in dysfunctional households over time that metamorphosizes into juvenile delinquents with anti-social behavior.

Wes Harrison’s comment that it used to take seven times, and now that number is up to 12 times for an addict going through rehab to get sobriety and become clean and sober threw me for a loop. Drug and alcohol rehab can run $10,000-$20,000 or more for a 21-30 day inpatient program stay. How many families have $200-$300,000 in their checking accounts to help Johnnie get through 12 rehab stays? Better yet, how many addicts on the streets have any cash in their wallets to pay for anything?

I respect how EPD is acting more like social service workers then hard-charging law enforcement when dealing with our homeless community. Getting the homeless to a free meal at Eureka Rescue Mission or St. Vincent De Paul is a start as there are a lot a outreach services, such as Open Door mobile services health trailer in that area of town.

Even though this documentary is primarily about drug addiction and the damage is does to families and society, I wish it would have also covered alcoholism. An estimated 6% of our adult population are alcoholics. 88,000 Americans die annually from alcohol-related causes (health and accidents).

So here’s my ask. Please either attend the PBS screening this Thursday or watch this documentary online. For those of you who say, “I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs and I don’t drink that much.” Open your eyes next time you’re in Old Town, Downtown or along Broadway. What do you see? Remember, Eureka has six times the per capita rate of homeless. Most of these folks have drug/alcohol problems that worsened their situation. We as a society are failing. But most importantly, we’re failing our children and the future generation.

Matthew Owen resides in Eureka.

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