Drug awareness growing in Incline Village with start of Nar-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous groups | SierraSun.com

Drug awareness growing in Incline Village with start of Nar-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous groups

A person loads a syringe with heroin. According to Washoe County, one heroin overdose death was recorded in Incline Village in 2013.
Courtesy Thinkstock.com | iStockphoto

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series regarding illegal drugs in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. Due to the sensitive nature of this story topic, the names of some people quoted have been withheld to protect their identity. Look to a future edition of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza for Part Two, which deals with drug-related statistics, commentary and education measures related to the community’s youth and public schools.

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By the numbers

Death reports for the Incline Village area from 2009 to 2014 (through July 31):

50: Non-drug-related deaths

2: Prescription drugs (2012, 2014)

2: Methamphetamine (2010, 2013)

1: Oxymorphone/ethanol (2011)

1: Nitrous Oxide (2009)

1: Heroin (2013)

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Incline Village drug-related crimes from past five years (from 2009 to July 31, 2014)

74: arrests/citations in 2009 — 35 were visitors, 39 were Incline/NV residents

76: arrests/citations in 2010 — 36 visitors, 40 Incline/NV

140: arrests/citations in 2011 — 74 visitors, 66 Incline/NV

54: arrests/citations in 2012 — 24 visitors, 30 Incline/NV

39: arrests/citations in 2013 — 19 visitors, 20 Incline/NV

20: arrests/citations in 2014 — 11 visitors, 9 Incline/NV

Source: Washoe County Sheriff’s Office

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Do you need help?

If you feel you or someone you know has a problem with narcotics or drugs in the community, there are options:

Narcotics Anonymous: To learn more about local meeting times, visit sierrasagena.org" target="_blank">Bold">sierrasagena.org or call Maura Steinmeyer at 775-240-8250. Or, call the Sierra Sage Help Line at 530-546-1116.

Nar-Anon: To learn more about the Incline Village group, which meets Wednesdays, 6:30-8 p.m. at Cornerstone Church at the Highway 28/Country Club Drive intersection, call Edee Campbell at 775-232-5262. Or, visit Nar-Anon.org" target="_blank">Bold">Nar-Anon.org .

Alcoholics Anonymous: Visit laketahoearea-alcoholicsanonymous.com" target="_blank">Bold">laketahoearea-alcoholicsanonymous.com to see when and where all the AA meetings take place in our communities.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Picture this: You walk into a local bar, order a drink, and gaze to your left. In the corner, you see two people, and one slips the other some money, and the other, with a darting glance here and there, casually hands off a small item in return.

That item is likely a small bag of drugs — perhaps cocaine, heroin, a few pills of percocet — and it’s a transaction some say happens a lot more often than Incline Village residents think.

“Look … it’s pretty easy to get drugs here. Anyone who says different either has no clue or is probably just trying to hide the issue,” one resident who manages a local business said in an interview this summer. “You live in a town long enough, and you see a lot of money changing hands, especially with the high school kids and college kids who have a lot of their parents’ money.

“It’s a rich kids’ town, and the stuff like coke, heroin, oxy (oxycodone or oxycontin, a pair of pain relief prescription drugs), that costs a lot. But they can get it. And they know where to get it.”

“Unfortunately, there’s been a large handful of kids in our community that haven’t escaped (addiction).”
Edee Campbell
Incline Village resident

Between 2009 and July 31, 2014, there have been 56 deaths in Incline Village/Crystal Bay, according to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, with most being of natural causes.

Six of those, however, have been narcotics-related, due to overdoses on prescription drugs (two), methamphetamine (two), heroin (one), oxymorphone/ethanol (one) and Nitrous Oxide (one).

That equates to the following statistic, when looking at the last five years: 9 percent of Incline Village deaths have been due to drug poisoning.

Meanwhile, there were 41,502 drug-overdose deaths (both legal and illegal drugs) in the United States in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 16,007 involved opioid analgesics (painkillers/other drugs resembling morphine or opiates) and 5,925 involved heroin. An additional 27,762 were alcohol-induced.

Balanced against the nation’s population of about 316 million people, that all equates to just 1 percent of Americans.

That statistical difference brings up the question: Is drug use and abuse among both youth and adults a problem in Incline Village and Crystal Bay? The answers vary, depending on who you talk to.

“I would say no,” said Washoe County Assistant Sheriff Darin Balaam, when asked if the 9 percent figure is something that should alarm residents. “But what I would say is that, with any death, one is too many. The key thing is that, with the public becoming aware of (drug use and abuse), the whole goal is getting parents engaged with their kids. We have to get to parents these days to educate and pay attention to what their kids are doing, who they are hanging out with and where they are.

“Where our society has gone … I know when I was young, parents knew who my friends were and where they lived. But that’s one of our biggest obstacles these days — getting the word out.”

‘SOME ARE NO LONGER WITH US’

Edee Campbell, a local Realtor, is doing her best to do just that.

Campbell moved to Incline Village in 1999 and has three grown children, all of whom went to North Tahoe or Incline public schools. She said many adults feel there is a problem with illegal drugs in Incline Village — both in terms of their availability, and among the age groups that have become addicted to them.

“It’s something we all think and hope would not happen in our own backyard. It’s hard to deal with, and there is a stigma that comes with it. All the sudden the parenting is questioned — could they have done things differently — and I think that’s unfair. I think it’s a bigger problem, a problem of more social acceptance to drug use, and it’s more prevalent in this community than people want to admit,” she said. “I think a lot of parents have an attitude that there’s kind of a rite of passage that all kids go through — drinking, maybe a bit of experimentation with drugs — but we all think and hope and pray they get through it and come out on the other side safely and then move on and grow up.

“Unfortunately, there’s been a large handful of kids in our community that haven’t escaped that. They are struggling with addiction, and some have been in jail, prison, and some are no longer with us … and I just think the mindset of looking the other way and that some of that behavior may be acceptable, needs to be changed.”

Of the six drug-related deaths in Incline since 2009, coupled with others that haven’t occurred here but have had direct impacts on the community, at least two have hit residents like Campbell harder than most — the 2011 and 2013 drug-related deaths of two local men who were former graduates from Incline High School.

It’s because of those and other increasing instances of young adults and school-age children being exposed to elicit drugs that Campbell felt compelled this summer to start up an Incline Village Nar-Anon group, the very first of its kind in the Truckee-Tahoe area, and only the second in Nevada (the other meets in Las Vegas).

The group is called “Strength & Hope,” and it meets Wednesday nights, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Cornerstone Community Church at 300 Country Club Drive in Incline Village.

The meetings average 4-7 people per week, with residents from Incline Village, South Lake Tahoe and Minden. And not all are parents, Campbell said — meetings are open to anyone dealing with a loved one’s addiction.

“Nar-Anon offers a 12-step program to help anyone dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction … to learn how to cope with addicts in their lives, to be happy and have their own lives, even in the midst of someone else’s crisis,” Campbell said. “Someone else’s drug use or alcoholism can destroy your life if you let it. This program offers the tools to deal with the turbulence with drug addiction, and to get some serenity back in your lives.”

‘IT IS WHAT IT IS’

When talking to residents and business owners in Incline Village, some may tell you they feel that drugs are a problem here. Others, however, go a bit deeper.

“Everyone knows you can buy pot from the kids at the Skate Park, but that’s really no secret,” one resident said, referring to the recreational area at the corner of Tahoe and Southwood boulevards. “It’s heroin, Molly (a drug similar to ecstasy in terms of chemical makeup and euphoric effect), cocaine — that’s the stuff people are worried about, and you can get it if you either know the right person, or if you go to the right bar or casino. People in this town, businesses, they aren’t going to like to hear that, but it is what it is.”

When asked what areas of the community are seen as red flags in terms of drug activity and sales, Balaam was hesitant to name specific locations, only to say that “higher-traffic areas … where people come and go and interact often … and parks … that are not well-lit … where quick hand-to-hand transactions happen, like parking lots” are monitored more closely.

And while the sheriff’s office will use undercover officers to buy drugs in Incline, like it does across Washoe County, it’s not commonplace and done only when a specific case calls for it.

“Our deputies, they learn about activities and locations from talking to 7-Eleven clerks, honestly. They know just as much about your community as us, so they come and go and speak to them,” Balaam said. “We look at them like when people go to the hairdressers to get all the gossip, and that’s how our deputies learn about the problem areas.”

In the same time span as the death statistics reported in this story, there have been roughly 400 drug-related arrests or citations doled out by Washoe County Sheriff’s Office personnel in Incline Village/Crystal Bay, which doesn’t include statistics tracked by the Nevada Highway Patrol. It’s also a statistic that should be taken at face value, as not every arrest necessarily results in a conviction.

According to WCSO, of those arrests/citations, roughly 50 percent are listed as “visitors” — meaning without an Incline Village or Nevada address, although it’s not clear if some are still “local,” in terms of Kings Beach or Tahoe City residents, for example.

The most arrests have been for driving under the influence of drugs, according to the statistics, including 25 for DUI drugs in 2009, 39 in 2010, 79 in 2011 and 18 in 2012.

Balaam said the 2011 spike is probably due to a deputy that year “having a forte” with DUIs in Incline Village.

“Some deputies, that’s their passion. They’ll find their niche — either it’s writing tickets, or spotting DUIs, or drugs, for example … which is most likely why,” he said.

In terms of other drug-related arrests, 65 were for possession from 2009 through July 31, 2014, while six were for sales/distribution.

Considering the statistics, Balaam was asked if drugs are a severe problem in Incline Village. He took a similar approach in his answers to the aforementioned death statistics.

“I would say no, but again, I’ll also say that even one crime is too many,” he said. “Look, if we pull all the stats for crimes, there’s no one that’s more severe than the other — but we do look at the highest-occurring crimes, and the ones that are trending, and if drugs start to trend up, then we will address that.”

‘THE FIRST STEP TO GETTING THE HELP YOU DESERVE’

Still, doubt exists from some as to whether enough is being done to control the perceived problem.

“You’re driving down the road at night, and you see someone pulled over. Then you drive past, and it looks like almost every time, there’s at least two cop cars there every time,” the same business manager quoted earlier said. “It just makes you wonder, could their time be spent better elsewhere?”

Balaam said the department takes all crimes seriously throughout the county, and the enforcement strategy is to attack problem areas as they arise with appropriate measures.

“Other crimes, like vehicle burglaries, they could be tied into drugs, too. So there’s not one crime that’s more severe than the other,” he said. “Obviously, in a perfect world, no crimes would occur. But they do, and that’s when we do our best to listen to the community, and if the perception is that the community feels like drugs are an issue, then we need to go and address that, even though our data may not show it.”

In terms of perception, Campbell is among residents and parents who feel there is a problem that needs a closer eye.

Another is Maura Steinmeyer, who grew up in Incline Village, attended Incline High School and raised a family of five children with her husband. She said she knows the challenges associated with starting conversations about drug use and abuse in a close-knit community like Incline Village.

“Living in a small town where we all know each others’ business, the business of recovery from drugs and alcohol is seldom discussed in a meaningful way,” said Steinmeyer, adding that her life has been saved and transformed over the years through the practice of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon — and Narcotics Anonymous, which, until recently, wasn’t available in Incline.

Unlike Nar-Anon — which helps those affected by others’ additions, similar to Al-Anon — NA acts like AA, in offering support groups for the addicts themselves. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.

Steinmeyer helped start the Incline Village group that met for the first time ever on Oct. 9, 2014. The weekly 8 a.m. Thursday “Attitude Adjustment” meeting downstairs at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church at 341 Village Blvd. is part of the Sierra Sage Region of NA.

Meetings range from 4 to 10 people, Steinmeyer said, and everyone is welcome to attend and “get an up-close look at recovery” in Incline Village.

“Many people aren’t sure if they are addicts, and this is a great way to find that out,” she said. “The courage to attend a meeting for yourself or someone in your life that may be suffering from addiction is the first step to get the help you deserve.”

As for next steps in terms of the community as a whole, it’s a much larger issue, Balaam said.

“We are trying our best, but like with the rest of the nation, and really, the rest of the world, we’re trying to figure it out,” he said. “You can take one user off the street, but there’s one right behind him. You can take a dealer off the street, but there’s another one right behind him. To stop the dealer, you need to stop the users, too.”

Look for more statistics for the community, and more commentary from these and other sources, in Part 2.