Daunting challenges

Have you ever faced an obstacle that seemed impossible to overcome?  Maybe it’s those last 10 stubborn pounds to lose (I am working on that!). Or quitting smoking. Perhaps your garage needs a complete cleaning so you can get your car back inside.

The experts say that the key to tackling a big, seemingly overwhelming goal is breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.  The small victories give you encouragement and hope as you take on the next step.  Furthermore, every task is easier if you are working alongside someone – many hands make light work!

At this point you may be asking what this has to do with Pierce County.  Fair enough.

Right now we are facing one of the largest and most challenging issues I’ve ever seen in our community: the scourge of opioids.  That’s why today’s Opioid Summit is so critically important.

I spent the morning with an impressive gathering of healthcare experts, policymakers, treatment providers, grieving parents and many others committed to make meaningful and lasting change in ending opioid addiction.

The Summit was convened by Councilmember Derek Young and City of Tacoma Councilmember Conor McCarthy.  We must take on this challenge together which is why I’m especially grateful for their combined leadership on this issue.  I look forward to seeing results from today’s Summit, as well as the task force that they co-chair.

Additionally, we do have small but critically important victories that we can point to.  I have been working with a new program at Good Samaritan Hospital focusing on the growing number of opioid-addicted pregnant women.  Dr. Abi Plawman’s work to help these women turn their lives around, give their babies a healthier start in life, and ideally keep them together on a new path in life is awe-inspiring.  I had the chance to meet a young mother named Devin who overcame incredible obstacles due to her daughter Lola.

You may have read a recent story in the News Tribune about another recovering addict’s redemptive journey.  If not, you can read it here.

We must break the grip that opioids have on our residents, friends and family members.

If you have a moment, you might check out our Facebook page where portions of the Summit are being live-streamed and can be viewed.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge and thank those of you that participated in last week’s Point-in-Time Count. Addressing homelessness (another topic raised frequently in your survey responses) also seems like an insurmountable challenge, at times – and has a connection both to our behavioral health work and opioids.

We changed up the way we counted this year, based on our experiences last year.  Those changes meant teams of volunteers visited homeless encampments, shelters and other places where those experiencing homelessness are known to live – some of the volunteers started at 1 a.m. in the morning in nasty weather.

This year we also had volunteers using a mobile app to gather demographic and other data about the people they were interviewing.  Given the change in methodology this year, I fully expect the count to be more accurate and likely higher than last year.  However, I hope it will help us confront this challenge more effectively.

Thanks to those in Human Services for managing the annual survey – it is a big effort! I’m especially grateful to Valeri Knight for her work to organize and train volunteers, manage the teams and coordinate assignments for local reporters.

If you are wondering what I will be doing on Sunday afternoon, Go Eagles! (If not a Seahawk, at least they are a bird!)

Thanks for reading,