Time to admit there's a problem

When overcoming an addiction, the first step is admitting there’s a struggle. The same is also true for a community to overcome a problem with drugs.

The Platte Valley has a dilemma with drugs..

The increased number of drug arrests during the time the Saratoga Police Department had a K9 unit was evidence of this. It became obvious when two young people lost their lives. Though the cause of death is still unconfirmed, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office suspects a fentanyl overdose.

The Valley has many wonderful things about it. From the natural hot springs to the Snowy and Sierra Madre mountains to the North Platte and Encampment rivers. We have a giving community that bands together when someone needs help. One need look no further than the outpouring of support for the family of Tyeler Harris late last year.

Following his death just before Christmas on Interstate 80 responding to a crash, the people of the Valley supported his family by donating money, preparing meals or providing emotional support.

The ladies of Bridge Street Bargains are another example of the giving of our community, living their motto ‘you give, we give’ each and every day. Funds raised through their second-hand store are donated to various causes and organizations throughout the Valley.

No community is perfect, though, and ours is no more shielded from the real world than any other in the country. If anything, being in Wyoming, we see it more often and more acutely because of the lack of available resources for mental and physical health. The hard truth of the matter is we aren’t living in some family sitcom like “The Andy Griffith Show” where issues are wrapped up by the end of an episode and everything is okay by the next.

The first step, often the hardest, is peeling away everything we’ve whitewashed about our community. We need to face the reality that the issue of drug use and abuse is not something that stops at Interstate 80, never to come into the Valley. The longer we go on telling ourselves there’s not a problem, the worse it will get.

After we’re honest with ourselves, the second step is to show compassion for those struggling with addiction. More often than not, those who use and abuse illicit substances aren’t doing it because “Hey, it’s fun” or “I’m bored and there’s nothing better to do.” In most cases, the sources of addiction and drug use can be linked to unresolved trauma, mental health issues and chronic pain disorders. Where proper services and medications aren’t accessible, alternatives are in ready supply.

Finally, those who are profiting off the suffering and struggles of others in our community must be found. While it may be convenient to tell ourselves the drug problem comes “from the outside,” the stark reality is this problem is likely perpetuated by some within our very Valley. The rumors of who is and isn’t dealing in Saratoga and Encampment need to be either dispelled or proven with cold, hard evidence.

The Saratoga Sun will be among those to begin this much needed conversation. Together with Saratoga Police Chief MIke Morris, other law enforcement, first responders and community leaders we will be holding a community roundtable at the Platte Valley Community Center tonight (February 23) at 5:30 p.m.

This will be the first of many conversations and we encourage the community to attend and be a part of the discussion. Only by talking about what is happening can we ever hope to have a resolution.


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