The recent death of musician Jarrod Bramson revealed a drug lab located here in Port Townsend, connecting the small Victorian seaport town to an issue that affects communities nationwide.
It may have been shocking to some, but for others, it was no surprise.
“It’s a problem everywhere,” said David Boone, a recovering addict who lives in Brinnon. “Drugs are easy to get and they have been for a while.”
For Boone, owner of Boone Trading Co., it took a divine intervention to restart his life and he hopes the death of Bramson will shock family and friends of addicts to take life-saving action.
Boone had dabbled in drugs for years, but it wasn’t until the cuffs were slapped on his wrist, that Boone realized he was in over his head.
“I had prayed, asking God to help me,” he said. “And then I ended up getting in trouble. I told the officer as the cuffs were being put on, ‘This is divine intervention.’”
Facing felony charges, Boone chose to take Therapeutic Drug Court, to help lessen his sentence.
Jefferson County Drug Court provides an alternative to jail time for non-violent drug-addicted defendants who wish to sober up.
Those in the 12-month program have to meet certain requirements to improve odds they’ll get sober, including weekly drug court meetings, AA meetings, and regular drug testing.
“I joined, thinking, ‘Well, I can clean myself up in 12 months and get out and go back to just light use,’” Boone said.
But since then, Boone has become the poster child for Drug Court. Though his life has had many twists and turns since then (including a stint in prison camp for inadvertently selling smuggled narwhal tusks at his trading company, and a relapse back into drugs) Boone credits God and Drug Court for helping him down the path to recovery.
Now, he continues to sit in on Drug Court meetings and making visits to the Jefferson County jail to encourage others struggling with drugs to learn about the services that are available to them.
“Almost every addict recognizes that they have a problem, but they don’t know how to change,” he said, citing the countless times his wife, children and employees had asked him to seek help. “It first takes knowing that countless people have done it before you. Then, you have to admit you have a problem and don’t know what to do about it.”
And though Boone swears by divine intervention as a way to get back on track (“ I don’t just believe in miracles. I count on them.”), he also swears by the county’s services that are available for people struggling with drug use.
“It’s not a game you play, it’s an incredible opportunity that the county offers you,” he said. “Previously, if you’ve got a drug problem, you’d expect that you’d get locked up. The county has a new model. If you’re willing to admit you’ve got a problem, they’re there to help.”
For Boone, it was getting arrested that led him to seek help. And while it may have been a good wake up call, family members and friends of those who struggle with addiction often hope that help will come sooner, before it is too late.
“I think we have all been affected by the tragic death in our community,” said Ed Mosshart, program director at Grey Wolf Ranch, a drug and alcohol treatment center for men located in Port Townsend.
Grey Wolf Ranch gets patients from all over the country coming to their long-term care programs, but Mosshart said they don’t get as many patients who are locals.
“The drug problem is a tough thing to locate directly,” he said. “It is increasing. And it’s really scary to think how it has happened.”
The most scary part, he said, is that the drugs out there can be incredibly fatal.
“You do not know what you’re getting out there,” he said. “You could be getting anything.”
Brian Richardson, a Chemical Dependency Professional Trainee at Dove House Advocacy Services, said the importance of calling 911 if someone you know is having an overdose cannot be overstated.
“First responders are trained to use Narcan (naloxone) which can reverse an opioid overdose,” he wrote in an email.
Washington has a “Good Samaritan Law.” The law protects anyone who is seeking medical assistance or helping someone else experiencing a drug-related overdose from being charged with possession of a controlled substance.
“This saves lives,” said Richardson.
Narcan is also available to the general public through the Jefferson County Public Health office, located at 615 Sheridan St. in Port Townsend. They distribute it in nasal spray form as well as injectable form.
Public Health staff will teach people how to administer Narcan and the office runs a syringe exchange program on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Public Health also does screenings for things like TB, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis.
Mosshart’s advice for families who know a loved one is struggling with addiction is to immediately stop enabling it.
“Don’t pay their rent for them, don’t pay their car payments, don’t bail them out of jail,” he said. “If you know there is a problem, just draw the line.”
Richardson said that it is important to remember that recovery is possible. Like Boone, many people have recovered from addiction before.
“Our community is filled with many people in all stages of recovery who have experience, strength, and hope to share with others,” Richardson said. “These are our family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They’re people we love. There are numerous forms of support in our community to help people find and maintain recovery.”