As we have gathered information regarding the Opioid issues in SLO county, we have found some very interesting angles and potential lede ideas for our story.
We spoke with two women who are part of the force leading the fight against Opioids in SLO county. Dr. Winstead (pictured above) and below) a Cal Poly professor and grant writer, is part of the syringe exchange program where she volunteers to provide clean syringes to the opioid using community. She is also overseeing a senior project by two biological sciences students who have been volunteering at the syringe exchange as well as collecting data from the opioid using community.
“The students who volunteer at the Syringe Exchange are instrumental to helping the community. They are literally saving lives. I want them to get recognition for that,” Dr. Winstead said.
Dr. Winstead provided us with other sources. She suggested we speak with Katie Grainger (pictured below) the leader of the Naloxone action team of the Opioid Safety Coalition of SLO County, who was instrumental in developing our information about Opioid use. As she is extremely involved, we wanted to know what perked her interest.
“What got you interested in helping the opioid using community, what wakes you up to help?” Lindsay Mann asked.
Grainger shared that she was specifically was personally affected by opioids, her ex husband was a heroin addict. She said that when you have so much love for one person and see their struggle, you want to show that love to everyone who has the same problem. She also explained that most of “the war on drugs” turns into a war on drug users, as opposed to the drugs themselves. For this reason, Grainger has been an active promoter of Naloxone- the opioid overdose antidote. Naloxone basically reverses the opioid overdose and has saved several lives since California was granted an increase in Naloxone. We felt that Naloxone felt like a clean up duty for a problem that was already established: opioid addiction. Megan Healy was interested in more.
“Do you think Naloxone is just solving the issue after it’s already been prevalent. Is there a way to get to the root of the problem, instead of dealing with addiction after it’s been established?” Healy asked.
Grainger expressed that obviously it wold be great to stop addiction from the start, but that isn’t as realistic as we think. There are many ways that Naloxone can help, and sadly the stigma regarding drug users also surrounds the drug to help them. Megan Lynch heard Grainger speak at the Opioid Safety Coalition Meeting and wanted more details
“What is the stigma surrounding Naloxone?” Lynch said. “Why do you think this is?”
Grainger shared that Naloxone should be viewed just as commonly as a fire extinguisher. Although Grainger is not an arsinist, she still keeps a fire extingusiher in case an accident happens. Same with Naloxone. Grainger has friends and loved ones that use opioids and if they were to take too much, she wants to be able to help them in a crisis. Naloxone doesn’t encourage addiction, but encourages a second chance and can save lives. She hopes that one day they will be second nature to us, found in public restrooms everywhere. Of course that is not the case as of now, but expressed the need for a public health answer for a public health problem, not a law enforcement answer to a public health.