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Willcox: Facing down opioid overdoses

WILLCOX — Opioid antidotes are now available through the WASA office, and educational efforts are under way.

What are the overdose numbers?

The Range News requested emergency room visit information on drug overdose victims from the Northern Cochise Community Hospital. According to the hospital’s records, there have been three confirmed overdose cases in the hospital since April 15, 2019.

The City of Willcox Head of Public Security Dale Hadfield told the Range News that there has been a lull in overdoses within the community.

“As far as the city of Willcox, we’re down on our opioid overdoses right now. Hopefully, it will stay that way, and although it is still an epidemic, I believe that state leadership has taken the right approach and is tackling it head on. And I think that the education and the ability to dispense the Narcan and Naloxone has been a big lifesaver,” Hadfield said.

“We may not be hearing about the overdoses just because people have access to Naloxone and have been able to save their partners. I would say it’s down right now, but I think that’s attributed to all the education that the state government and federal government has put into place.”

The Willcox Police Department has been supplied with the opioid antidote Narcan since November of 2018. When asked if the Police Department has used any of this supply, Hadfield said his department has yet to use a dosage.

What is WASA doing to help?

Willcox Against Substance Abuse (WASA) has been a stable local nonprofit organization in the Willcox community for more than 30 years and was first created by citizens to combat the destructive effects of teen drinking and driving.

Sally White, WASA director, has repeatedly said that before WASA was created, there was a death in almost every Willcox High School graduating class in the 1960s and 1970s due to drinking and driving.

Specializing in a large cornucopia of activities ranging from summer classes, after-school activities, to teen drug court, WASA’s latest endeavor is to curb the opioid epidemic in Willcox and the surrounding areas.

“Opioid abuse is a well-known epidemic in our country. Unfortunately, Willcox and our surrounding areas are not immune. We may be a small community, but when someone loses the battle of addiction to an overdose, it is felt throughout the entire community,” said Alcia Hernandez, who will take over for White when White retires.

At the Aug. 1 meeting of the Willcox City Council, WASA requested a letter of support from the city in the effort to create a medically assisted treatment center. The council approved the request, and WASA is currently waiting for the letter to be sent so that it can begin the next step toward the construction of the center.

In a previous interview, Hernandez told the Range News that although this is a new project for WASA, the nonprofit will still be working hard in its other activities and classes.

“This issue not only affects the adults within our community but our children as well, and (it) needs to be addressed head on and from all angles,” said WASA board member Myndi Brooks. “That includes medically, as well as emotionally and spiritually. Only when you help heal the whole person can that person be whole again.”


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Willcox students learn about stranger danger

WILLCOX — Do you know the code word?

Children in grades 4-6 were gathered in the high school auditorium last Thursday to listen to Chief of Public Safety Dale Hadfield discuss stranger danger.

The informational lecture follows two individuals in the Willcox area attempting to coerce area children into their vehicles after school started last month. These individuals have yet to be identified or apprehended by police.

Because of the incidents, the Willcox Unified School District as well as the Willcox Police Department have encouraged residents within the community to teach their children on the importance of avoiding contact with strangers.

“How many of you guys ever had your parents have somebody come pick you up that you’ve never met before?” Hadfield asked the students.

More than 20 Willcox students raised their hands, indicating that they had been given a ride home by someone they had never met before.

“Really? You guys have gotten into cars with people you don’t know?” Hadfield asked.

The auditorium erupted as children tried to explain in mixed tones as the police personnel and attending adults glanced around at each other. After this, Hadfield stressed the importance of having a code word within family circles in an effort to keep children safe from predators posing as family or authority figures.

“If you don’t know them, don’t get in the car with them,” Hadfield said.

“That’s scary (the kids admitting to have ridden home with a stranger). That’s the biggest thing we’re worried about right there. We want to have the parents sit down and have a conversation with their kids about this and be vigilant. School is a safe zone, but to and from school can be treacherous at times,” said Willcox Middle School Principal Mike Patterson.

“The biggest thing is to get the word out to the kids. We want to be proactive. There has already been a couple instances where somebody has tried to pick up the kids, so we’re trying to make the kids and the parents aware as much as we can. That was the purpose of the assembly today.”