Series on opiate abuse continues to draw big crowds | SteamboatToday.com

Series on opiate abuse continues to draw big crowds

Scott Franz

Buck Chavarria talks to a large audience Wednesday about opiate abuse.

— As he joked with a large audience at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Wednesday afternoon, it was hard to tell Nick Power used to be part of the heroin problem in Steamboat Springs.

“I was a grade A dirtbag,” Power said as he recalled how he was arrested here in 2012 for possessing heroin.

Power credited the local Sk8 Church for helping make his recovery possible.

There, he said, he found a place he wouldn’t be exiled or blamed.

“I knew I wasn’t just a heroin addict,” he said with a smile on his face. “I wasn’t going to let that define me.”

At the second installment of a lunch-and-learn series that is raising awareness of local opiate abuse, Power and several other speakers provided powerful and personal anecdotes about the issue.

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For the second time in two weeks, Library Hall was filled to capacity as community members came to learn more about the problem and discuss solutions.

The presentations were at times emotional, bringing some audience members to tears.

Wednesday’s session was highlighted by powerful anecdotes from Sk8 Church Pastor Buck Chavarria, who said he has walked with many local youth as they have overcome addictions.

The audience learned the problem doesn’t just affect one type of child.

“Some are star athletes. Some are Olympic hopefuls. Some are hopeless statistics,” Chavarria said. “I’ve worked with redneck kids, ranch kids and loner emo kids with blue hair. Some are clean shaven. Others are heavily tattooed. I’ve walked with all of them because they’re all great kids. They’re our kids.”

Further illustrating the potential of the issue locally, several audience members raised their hands when they were asked if they had leftover painkillers in their medicine cabinets that they weren’t using.

Chavarria said he doesn’t think opiate abuse will ever completely disappear.

“We’re never going to squash this issue of opiate use completely because there will always be drugs,” Chavarria told the audience. “But we can certainly do some things to make it better.”

Chavarria urged the audience to break the silence about opiate addiction, and he called on parents to “quit covering up for your kids.”

“And kids, quit running around in the shadows,” Chavarria said.

Chavarria said the Steamboat community is great at coming together to celebrate successes, sport victories and other more jovial occasions.

But he said that when it comes to rallying to support community members who are suffering from an addiction, there’s progress to be made.

“Every time I deal with a family and their kid is struggling, they feel alone, and unfortunately, that’s the opposite of a caring community,” Chavarria said. “The answer to this opiate problem is community wide.”

Wednesday’s presentation also included a video of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talking about one of his friends who died as a result of a 10-year addiction to Percocet.

Christie said his friend was very successful until he got addicted to the drug following a back injury.

“It can happen to anyone,” Christie said of addiction.

Future lunch-and-learn events will take place March 16 and 23.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10