Dirty Needles Amongst the Redwoods –
May 8, 2018 – EUREKA, Calif. — The dirty needles can be found scattered among the pine and brush, littering the forest floor around Eureka, a town long celebrated as a gateway to the scenic Redwood Empire. They are the debris of a growing heroin scourge that is gripping the remote community in Northern California. While the state as a whole has one of the lowest overall opioid-related death rates in the country, a sharp rise in heroin use across the rural north in recent years has raised alarms. In Humboldt County, the opioid death rate is five times higher than the state average, rivaling the rates of states like Maine and Vermont that have received far more national attention.
The problem is exacerbated here in Eureka, the county seat, by a sizable homeless population that is growing amid an extreme lack of affordable housing and a changing, weakened economy that relies heavily on tourism. The combined ills have devastated a particularly vulnerable community that is often overlooked in the state. Now those problems are spilling into public view, sparking grievances and anger among the town’s residents.