A Step in the Right Direction

Tulalip community participates in International Overdose Awareness Day

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The opioid and heroin crisis has continued to escalate over recent years in America. The state of Washington sees approximately three-thousand deaths annually due to drug abuse, according to the Washington State Department of Health. In Snohomish County there are nearly seven-hundred drug-related causalities per year, with the largest amount of overdoses occurring in the Everett-Marysville-Tulalip area. A recent study conducted by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute shows that thirty-one percent of deaths statewide can be credited to drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day is held each year on August 31 to bring attention to the drug epidemic, educate community members and remember the loved ones who have fallen to their addiction. This year the Tulalip community participated in International Overdose Awareness Day with the Fed Up? Wake Up! Overdose Awareness event hosted by the Tulalip Community Health Department.

“One of the important things that Community Health believes in and wants to bring to the community is meeting the people right where they are,” explains Tulalip Community Health Nurse, Suzanne Carson. “This event is to share with community members what they can do to educate themselves about the overdose problem; what overdoses look like, what withdrawal looks like, what the risk factors are – that kind of education, so they know what they’re looking at when they see someone who is struggling.

“We also want to acknowledge those loved ones who we have lost to an overdose and the lives that have been affected by an overdose,” she continues.  “An overdose not only affects the person who took the drugs, but everybody in the community. The hearts are impacted every time the community loses or almost loses somebody and our goal is to give the community a chance to reflect on the lives that have been affected.”

Internationally, people are encouraged to show support by wearing purple and silver on Overdose Awareness Day. A trail of shoes, spray-painted purple and silver, were lined from Marine Drive, alongside Totem Beach Road, leading to the new Tulalip Community Health Department.  According to Suzanne, each shoe on the ‘trail of empty shoes’ symbolizes a life lost or a life affected by an overdose.

In 2014, the Tulalip Tribes adopted a Good Samaritan aw, the Lois Luella Jones law, which shields addicts from arrest and prosecution when reporting an overdose. Sergeant William Santos of the Tulalip Police Department and Tulalip tribal member Rico Jones-Fernandez were in attendance to speak to the community about the law. In 2011, Lois Luella Jones lost her life to an overdose. Authorities believe she could’ve been revived, however her peers did not call for medical assistance, fearing they would be arrested. Her son Rico created the Good Samaritan law and has since dedicated his life to raising overdose awareness in the community by running the Tulalip Clean Needle Exchange Program.

During the event, community members painted rocks, in dedication to those who lost their life to an overdose, and placed them in the Remembrance Rock Garden, located in front of the Community Health Department. Many of the rocks in the Remembrance Garden display the names of overdose victims as well as personal messages from the community members. Tulalip community member and Yakima tribal member, Scott Rehume, explained the story behind the rock he designed for his brother, Kevin.

“I just went to his funeral the other day,” he emotionally states. “When they said he passed away, I asked how – they said he OD’ed on heroin. He never even messed with it before, at the beginning of his usage he ends up doing too much and dying. When I came back to Tulalip from the funeral, I saw they had this overdose awareness event, so I decided to show up and make him a rock.”

The event concluded with a Naloxone training to better equip community members with the knowledge of how to revive someone who has overdosed.

“Naloxone is the opioid antagonist,” says Suzanne. “The receptors in the brain that opioids and heroin bind to, Naloxone goes in there and kicks them of those receptors so that the opioid is out of their system immediately. It’s what can save a life when somebody is overdosing. By taking the training, Tulalip tribal members are sent home with a free Naloxone kit that they can use to save a life.”

The Fed Up? Wake Up! event brought valuable information to the Tulalip community. Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Marie Zackuse, believes that events like the Overdose Awareness are a step in the right direction during these trying times of the opioid and heroin epidemic.

“When this affects your family member, you become helpless,” Marie expresses. “You don’t know what to do because you love them and you want to be able to help them, but you lose the ability to figure out what you can do to help – these types of get-togethers can help us. Seeing the flyer brought me to bring my daughter and we’re hoping to bring more family members together to just talk about it, because it is hard to talk about and we need to be able to support one another.

“I’m so thankful for the staff that brought this all together because it shows that we do care for our members,” continued Marie. “Each and every one of our families in this community are affected and we don’t want to lose one more person, because that person is our child, our grandchild. If we can all come together and take back our community, we can save some lives.”

Mom’s death inspires advocacy for those living with addiction

Dan Bates / The HeraldRico Jones-Fernandez waits in a gravel lot outside a vacant building on the Tulalip Reservation on Tuesday for anyone wishing to exchange needles.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Rico Jones-Fernandez waits in a gravel lot outside a vacant building on the Tulalip Reservation on Tuesday for anyone wishing to exchange needles.

 

By Andrew Gobin, The Herald

 

TULALIP — Since his mother’s death four years ago from a drug overdose, Rico Jones- Fernandez has worked to save other lives that might be lost.

His focus has been on people living with addiction on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

“I have the ability to do something, so it is my responsibility to do something,” he said.

Jones, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, has been an advocate for expanding outreach programs on the reservation, particularly efforts that reach people who are not yet ready for rehabilitation.

Last year, Jones worked to develop a law that shields addicts from arrest and prosecution of misdemeanor offenses when they are seeking medical assistance to save a life. In recent months, Jones also has played a key role in bringing a syringe exchange to the Tulalip community, the first program of its kind for the reservation.

 

In 2010, Jones’ mother, Lois Luella Jones, died of a drug overdose. Her friends did nothing to help her, fearing they themselves would be arrested.

His mother’s story inspired Jones to draft a 911 Good Samaritan law for the Tulalip Tribes in hopes that others might be saved.

In June, the Tulalip Tribal Council passed the Lois Luella Jones Law, which provides temporary immunity from prosecution for low-level offenses if the person is attempting to get medical attention for themselves or somebody else in any emergency.

A higher value is placed on saving lives than filing misdemeanor drug charges, Jones said.

In May of last year, Tulalip Prosecutor Dave Wall told Tulalip News, “In terms of the war on drugs, when someone is overdosing, the war has been lost. The battle for that person’s life is now the focus.”

Jones began volunteering with the Snohomish County Syringe Exchange in 2014 to learn how he might start a similar program on the reservation. The exchange offered to expand their service and two months ago began exchanging needles at Tulalip every Tuesday.

The goal is not to enable drug use, but to prevent the spread of disease.

“Hepatitis-C and HIV get on everything, not just syringes. We exchange everything. The cooker, the cottons and the tourniquets,” Jones said.

Some criticize syringe exchanges, concerned these types of programs are giving needles away, fueling a problem.

“People already have needles that they are using, and reusing,” Jones said. “This isn’t about giving them needles, it’s about making sure they have a place to safely dispose of dirty needles in exchange for clean, safe syringes.”

His mother’s death continues to drive him, but it is the promise of the future that fuels Jones’ perseverance.

“I get tired. I face a lot of opposition when I try to bring programs like this to our community,” Jones said. “But I made a promise to myself and my son that this would be a safer place for him. I can’t give up.”

Currently, Jones is seeking approval from the tribal council to increase access to Naloxone on the reservation. If approved, people would be trained to administer Narcan, a compound that counters the effects of a drug overdose.

Jones, who has never been an addict, hopes to spare others the sorrow of loss he knows too well.

“It’s not about drugs or enabling people; it’s about people’s lives. All I do is in hopes of saving lives,” he said.

In 2013, 580 people died in Washington from opioid drug overdoses, 86 of whom were from Snohomish County, and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett reportedly treated 440 cases of opiate poisonings.

Lois Luella Jones Law Protects

If you see an overdose you can call 911 and not be arrested for:

-Drug use and drug paraphernalia

-Underage drinking

-Contributing to a minor

-Non-Violent misdemeanor warrants

The Lois Luella Jones Law Protects you

It’s a contingency for an overdose. It protects in situations.

We want people to call in an overdose and this is why.

LoisLuellaJones

Tulalip adopts Good Samaritan Law with Lois Luella Jones Law

Rico Jones-Fernandez and his mother Lois 'Lou Lou' Luella Jones shortly before she passed away on July 10, 2010 from an alcohol overdose. Jones-Fernandez campaigned for the Tulalip Tribes to adopt a Good Samaritan Law on the Tulalip Reservation that would grant temporary immunity to those seeking medical attention for a victim during a drug or alcohol overdose. The Tulalip Tribes passes the Lois Luella Jones Law on June 7, 2014. Photo Courtesy/ Rico Jones-Fernandez

Rico Jones-Fernandez and his mother Lois ‘Lou Lou’ Luella Jones shortly before she passed away on July 10, 2010 from a drug overdose. Jones-Fernandez campaigned for the Tulalip Tribes to adopt a Good Samaritan Law on the Tulalip Reservation that would grant temporary immunity to those seeking medical attention for a victim during a drug or alcohol overdose. The Tulalip Tribes passes the Lois Luella Jones Law on June 7, 2014.
Photo Courtesy/ Rico Jones-Fernandez

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – For the past few months Rico Jones-Fernandez has campaigned to enact a Good Samaritan Law on the Tulalip Reservation that would provide temporary immunity for people seeking help from 911 emergency services for victims of drug or alcohol overdose. On June 7, his campaign came to an end when the Tulalip Board of Directors voted unanimously to enact the Lois Luella Jones Law into the Tulalip Tribal Codes.

While Jones-Fernandez’s dedication paid off for future victims of overdose, his dedication stemmed from personal tragedy.

Lois ‘Lou Lou’ Luella Jones is described as a compassionate woman, who loved to laugh and be with her family and friends. She was a proud mother of five children and had grandmother bragging rights over three grandchildren, whom she intended to be close with. But on July 10, 2010, at the age of 41, Lou Lou succumbed to what the coroner’s office, labeled as acute intoxication due to combined effects of oxycodone carisoprodol and acetaminophen. A drug overdose. Her son Rico believes it was a death that could have been prevented if the people in the house with her at the time of the overdose had called 911 for emergency help, without fear of arrest or conviction.

“I wonder what I could have done everyday,” says Jones-Fernandez. “I know there are a lot of people who are sitting and wondering what they could do for their loved ones, and there isn’t much you can do except tell them you are there for them. And with this law, at least people have the peace of mind in knowing if something does happen, someone can call 911 without fear of getting arrested. This is about not waiting for someone you love to die.”

On April 13 of this year, Jones-Fernandez introduced an early version of the law to the Tulalip Board of Directors. The draft became known informally as draft 1 after a proposed version of the law was presented by Tulalip Legal Department, known as draft 2.

Rico Jones-Fernandez discusses the two drafts the Tulalip Board of Directors examined for a Tulalip Good Samaritan law before passing the Lois Luella Jones Law which would grant temporary immunity to those seeking medical attention for a victim of a drug or alcohol overdose. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Rico Jones-Fernandez discusses the two drafts the Tulalip Board of Directors examined for a Tulalip Good Samaritan law before passing the Lois Luella Jones Law which would grant temporary immunity to those seeking medical attention for a victim of a drug or alcohol overdose.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

The two drafts, although proposed to encourage people to report emergencies without fear of self-incrimination, contained vastly different language and protections for the person seeking medical help for a victim of an overdose.

Draft 1 proposed guaranteed immunity for persons seeking medical help from being arrested due to possession of illicit substances or paraphernalia charges, underage drinking, or contributing to a minor, including non-violent misdemeanor warrants. Protection for the caller also included the removal of probation being revoked or modified, and immunity to extend to all present that cooperated with medical staff.

Draft 2 proposed protection from arrest due to possession of illicit substances and police retain the power to arrest but encourage discretion, including the ability to use the law as a defense later in court if arrested.

Jones-Fernandez stated the differences in his draft are not about condoning the crimes, but that  life is more important.

Tulalip Tribes BOD agreed and passed draft 1 during a regular Board meeting, making the Lois Luella Jones Law effective following a brief 10-day filing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Although minor changes were made to draft 1 before it’s approval with the Board, the draft still retained its original language and intent, and can be used immediately.

“I’ve talked to hundreds of people about this law, and read everything I could get my hands on. It has come a long way; it has been challenging, but this is going to make things better. It is a good start. It is a great first step that will be effective,” said Jones-Fernandez.

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com

 

 

The value of saving a life: Proposed law to grant temporary immunity to save lives

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

TULALIP – A proposed new law on the Tulalip Indian Reservation raises the question of the value of life, and in turn the value of saving a life. Called the Lois Luella Jones Law after a victim of overdose, the law would encourage people to seek help from 911 emergency services through temporary immunity, which removes the fear of arrest and or conviction. The intent is to cut down on the number of preventable deaths in the community. There are two drafts of the proposed law with distinct differences, though in each the goal is the same, to encourage people to report emergencies without the fear of self-incrimination.

Rico Jones-Fernandez, who proposed the law for Tulalip, is the son of Lois Luella Jones, for whom the law is so named. He is a strong proponent of 911 Good Samaritan Laws in communities that battle drug addiction.

“This isn’t a law enforcement issue, it’s about saving lives,” he said.

Jones-Fernandez’s draft of the proposed law states that persons seeking medical assistance for a person experiencing an overdose or other life threatening emergent situation are to be granted immunity from arrest and prosecution for minor offenses. In his draft, minor offenses are defined as contributing to the delinquency of an underage person, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and minor in possession. Immunity extends beyond crimes listed to warrants for misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes as well.

“It’s not condoning the crimes and behaviors, it’s saying that a life is more important than a drug charge,” said Jones-Fernandez.

Jones-Fernandez’s draft, as written, has raised question and concern for public safety. Tulalip Prosecutor, Dave Wall, along with reservation attorney, Anthony Jones, also drafted a law that keeps the intent of the law in-tact, while taking into account public safety as a continuing priority. The main difference between the two drafts is the definition of immunity. Jones-Fernandez’s draft explicitly states that the immunity prevents arrest and conviction for crimes listed, whereas the draft written by tribal attorneys reserves the power to arrest yet still extends immunity to convictions for the crimes listed.

Wall said, “The police have a responsibility to public safety, and to keep the peace. They need to retain the power to make arrests.

“Stopping an arrest,” he continued, “that is very hard. Stopping charges or a conviction is much easier. We aren’t rushed to make a decisions like with an arrest. We have time to contemplate circumstances and weigh decisions.”

In addition to concerns surrounding a law enforcement officer’s ability to make arrests, there is a concern regarding warrants. If people are repeat offenders, or have multiple warrants, should those people be eligible for immunity? With regards to misdemeanor warrants and non-violent crime warrants, what defines non-violent crime? Burglary is not a violent crime, yet it is a felony. Should warrants for burglary be overlooked under this law? These are questions the Tulalip Tribal Council will need to answer as they review the two drafts of the proposed law.

“Yes, saving a life is important, but what about the home owner whose property was burglarized. What happens when he learns the police were in extended contact with the burglar, and did nothing, just let him go? What are his rights to justice?” Wall added.

Regardless of the legal and public safety concerns, there is the question of how effective a 911 Good Samaritan Law would be at Tulalip.

“We have nothing to lose. If it is implemented and it is effective, we would be saving that many more lives,” said Jones Fernandez.

Even though both drafts include the provision for immunity from conviction for crimes listed, Jones-Fernandez fears that the tribes’ draft is not protective enough for people seeking medical assistance for overdose victims.

“If it does not protect the caller enough, then the law won’t be effective,” he explained.

Other areas of ambiguity in each draft deal with the terms of immunity, specifically who is eligible for immunity and how long it lasts. If there are ten people at the scene of an incident, but only three were seeking assistance, are all ten granted immunity? It is yet to be clearly defined, though the language of each draft suggests no. The way each draft is worded, immunity is only applicable to those actively seeking medical assistance, or is assisting in some manner. So at a house party, for example, you could not claim to have been unseen in another part of the house and be eligible for immunity. That being said, each draft also puts the burden of discrediting immunity on the prosecution, meaning if someone claims immunity under this law, if it were to pass, the court would have to discredit them, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that this law is not applicable to them.

There is also the question of immunity for people who call repeatedly. As written, neither draft limits how many times you can be granted immunity.

Phino Fernandez, Jones-Fernandez’s brother and fellow supporter of the Lois Luella Jones Law, said, “It can be as repetitious as it needs to be. What makes the 25th life any less important or significant than the first? Why shouldn’t the same value of saving a life apply equally to both?”

It comes back to saving lives. That doesn’t mean people get a free pass, only that the focus has shifted.

“In an emergent situation, we want anyone to feel safe enough to call for assistance to save a life. In terms of the war on drugs, when someone is overdosing, the war has been lost. The battle for that person’s life is now the focus. We can sort out the rest later,” explained Wall.

Both drafts of the law address what happens after the fact. If new crimes and circumstances arise out of the emergent situation, immunity is no longer applicable, and the proposed law would no longer be able to suppress evidence in those cases. That means the temporary immunity ceases after the overdose or emergent situation has concluded, preventing larger crimes that arise from overdose situations to go unchecked.

Wall captured the struggle to balance public safety and the value of saving lives quite eloquently in these few words, “I want us as a community, the tribal court and police included, for the overriding factor of saving lives.”

The law has immense support from the community and from tribal leaders. Aside from concerns to public safety, both drafts of the law express that the value of saving lives is paramount to healing our community, and, for offenders, the value of saving a life is a second chance.

On Thursday, May 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Tulalip administration building, the CEDAR group will be hosting a community forum on this law. The law is set to be presented to the Tulalip Tribal Council for approval in June.

 

Andrew Gobin: 360-631-7075; agobin@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov