EVERETT, Wash. – Shannon McCarty was using heroin and meth every day. A victim of a rough upbringing and continuing abuse as an adult, Shannon says she started smoking meth to deal with the long hours of working two jobs, then she moved on to heroin and became addicted.
After just a short time she was homeless and hated her life.
In 2017, Shannon was shooting up in a parked car when an officer showed up outside the window. Shannon was living in the vehicle at the time.
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Officer Inci Yarkut knocked on the window and explained why she was there. But instead of trying to bust Shannon for personal possession of narcotics, she offered help instead.
“I explained who I was and what my role in the police department was,” Yarkut said, handing Shannon a business card. “said, ‘Hey, if there’s something that we can do for you — because I think there are things that we can do for you, that we can help you — give me a call.”
Yarkut is a member of the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team with the Everett Police. Their mission? Get users the help they need to get sober.
“The idea behind our team was to really focus on that outreach piece because just continually putting people in jail, putting people in jail, putting people in jail and having them come out and repeat that cycle of their drug use, that’s not doing anything for them,” Yarkut said.
Everett Police Department as well as a large number of agencies across the United States are now looking to help treat drug users instead of putting them in jail.
Tired of the lifestyle and unable to successfully get herself off the dope, Shannon turned to her local police department for help. She reached out to Yarkut via text.
Shannon wrote: “Hello Inci, I tried to send you a message a few weeks ago I’m not sure if you got it … I was hoping to set up a time to meet with you for your help on the stuff we had talked about. I don’t want to go to jail or have a record as I am just the lost, depressed, hurt woman who has made a few poor choices, basically trying to end my life because I can’t take pain and hurt anymore … I have lost a lot over the last three years including my will, it seems. I don’t want to be this judged person anymore. I just need some help and I am not usually one to ask for help, but I want to be me again. I am sorry and thank you for listening, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time. Shannon.”
“[She was] very skinny, very pale,” Yarkut said about when she first met Shannon.
But her appearance has changed dramatically.
“She looks healthy. She has a big old smile on her face. You can just see in her face what a changed person she is, and it’s pretty awesome,” Yarkut said.
Choosing to quit is half the battle. And every addict will tell you that it has to be their decision.
“You’re not going to quit until you’re ready and I was so ready and I decided that I didn’t want to die anymore,” she said. “I decided I wanted to live.”
Officer Yarkut quickly got back to her.
“Hi Shannon, I never got a message from you. I’m so happy to hear from you. I would love to meet and see if we can help you out … You can call or text me or come by the police department and ask for me. Please hang on. We’ll help you.”
While the road to treatment isn’t always successful, Yarkut says her fellow team members are definitely seeing a difference.
Shannon has now been sober for a year-and-a-half, and counting.