SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - Only KIRO 7 was invited to follow Snohomish County agencies as they work together to attack the heroin epidemic.
This week, the county health district is trying to count the number of people who've overdosed; those numbers will help the county lobby for more money for treatment, something the sheriff's office successfully did last month.
"About 90 percent of the people I run into out here are good people who have lost their way,” explained Deputy Bud McCurry.
When he started in law enforcement two decades ago, he had to put a lot of those “good people” in handcuffs.
"If they were in possession of some sort of narcotics or paraphernalia, then they were either cited or went to jail."
But today, the Snohomish County deputy is going into homeless encampments deep in the woods to offer them an alternative.
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It isn't pleasant and it isn't always safe, yet still, a lot of people don't want to leave their makeshift home.
But past heaps of trash and human waste, McCurry, a social worker and the sergeant over the Office of Neighborhoods search for people ready to better themselves by taking a bed at the state’s first diversion center.
"Would you be interested in going with me where you'd have a safe spot to be in between getting sober? We have a place now, it's called a diversion center,” Sgt. Ryan Boyer asked a man who emerged from a tent.
It's been open less than a month, after the sheriff's office lobbied for and received state funding. The diversion center has 44 beds in the jail building -- but it's not jail.
The people there are free to leave, but most have not.
"We're invested in them, they know we're invested in them and there's a trust built between us and the clients,” Sgt. Boyer explained.
It keeps them out of the already overcrowded jail and gives them access to mental health and drug treatment services.
Monday, McCurry and the team may have found a 90-percenter, the man they found in a tent. A good person -- McCurry said -- who is ready to accept the help.
"Our goal is to keep our homeless heroin addicts one, clean and sober, and two, off the streets,” he concluded.
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