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NYT Story Examines Heroin's Impact on Local Tribes and its Link to an Ailing River

Kimberly Wear Sep 5, 2018 16:26 PM
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The Klamath River near Ishi Pishi Falls.
The New York Times this week explores the devastating impacts of the nation's opioid crisis on Kaurk, Hoopa and Yurok tribal communities, placed in the context of their connection to the struggling health of the Klamath River — an integral link between the tribes as well as their past, present and future in the region.

It’s no secret that Humboldt County as a whole has been hit hard by the scourge of addiction with more opioid prescriptions than residents and an overdose death rate that is three times the state average and almost twice that of the nation — most involving methamphetamine or opiate intoxication.

But the tribal communities of Humboldt’s remote corners form an epicenter of that addiction epicenter, leaving few — if any — families untouched, a statistic that plays out across the nation.

Indian Health Service, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in reporting that Native Americans had a larger increase in overdose deaths from 1999-2015 — up more than 500 percent — than any other ethnic group.

Back in March, the Yurok Tribe filed a federal lawsuit against 20 manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids, alleging the companies are responsible for spreading a destructive trail of drug use on the reservation and across the country.
The county of Humboldt and the city of Eureka have also joined the lawsuit.

“The only difference between these companies and drug cartels is the fact that legal purveyors of prescription opioids have protection from law enforcement and seemingly unlimited funds to market and distribute to the masses their highly addictive drugs,” Amy Cordalis, the Yurok Tribe’s general counsel who is also a tribal member, said in a release at the time. “There is not a single Yurok family that has not either directly or indirectly experienced the horrors of opiate addiction.”

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