Home » News » All Hands Whatcom and Bellingham Library Encourage Community Discussion of Fentanyl, Meth and Opioid Crisis

All Hands Whatcom and Bellingham Library Encourage Community Discussion of Fentanyl, Meth and Opioid Crisis

To encourage local dialogue on the topic of fentanyl, meth and opioid use, Bellingham Public Library is partnering with All Hands Whatcom on multiple free events, and circulating numerous print copies of The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth by author Sam Quinones..

Author Event with Sam Quinones, Aug. 1

The author will be in Bellingham for All Hands Whatcom: An Evening with Sam Quinones, Tuesday, Aug. 1 at 6:00 pm at Bellingham High School. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more, register, sign up for email alerts, and submit questions for the author at ChuckanutHealthFoundation.org/allhands.

“Events like these are critical to creating a holistic community response to the opioid crisis,” said Erika Lautenbach, Health and Community Services Director. “Through shared dialogue, education, and understanding we can strengthen resilience and move together towards common goals of prevention, treatment, and recovery.” 

“We all are affected by the growing fentanyl and meth use crisis. This event is an enormously helpful and timely opportunity for our community to gain greater understanding about the nature of the problem and how to address it,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. “We join hundreds of leaders in communities across the country who are impacted. Your City leaders are engaged, responsive and compassionate in our efforts to attend to the realities of this crisis and the damage it is doing in our community. We need everyone to learn more and contribute to solutions.”

Book Discussions, Aug. 14 and Aug. 17

The conversation will continue as Bellingham Public Library hosts two Community Conversations: The Least of Us by Sam Quinones, on Aug. 14 and Aug. 17 at the Bellingham Central Library Lecture Room. These free public book discussions will be facilitated by Dr. Shannon Boustead, family medicine physician at SeaMar Community Health Clinics in Bellingham, and Public Services Librarian Suzanne Carlson-Prandini. Pre-registration requested, but not required. Register here for Thursday, Aug. 17, 5:30 – 7 pm. Learn more at BellinghamPublicLibrary.org, or call (360) 778-7323.

“The effects of fentanyl and methamphetamines are everywhere. They affect most people in our community to one degree or another, but we each only experience our own individual perspectives. We are seeing changes in the crisis locally, and it is important to understand what we are seeing here in perspective of the whole nation,” explains Dr. Boustead.

“Sam Quinones’s most recent book, The Least of Us, provides an important overview of the origins of this crisis and what it looks like now, across the country. He shows the underlying dynamics which lead to such similar-appearing problems in hugely diverse communities throughout the country,” says Dr. Boustead.

Sam Quinones (pronounced Kin-YOH-Ness) is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, a reporter for 35 years, and a veteran reporter on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking, and the border. He is formerly a reporter with the L.A. Times, where he worked for 10 years. Before that, he made a living as a freelance writer residing in Mexico for a decade. His latest book, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, was released in November, 2021.

About The Least of Us

In The Least of Us, Quinones chronicles the emergence of a drug-trafficking world producing massive supplies of synthetic drugs (fentanyl and meth) cheaper and deadlier than ever, marketing to the population with substance use disorder created by the nation’s opioid epidemic. With The Least of Us, Quinones broke the story of how methamphetamine has covered the U.S. and is creating widespread and rapid-onset symptoms of schizophrenia, becoming a major driver of the country’s homelessness.

“We as physicians see that this crisis cannot be solved even by the effective medications and other treatments we can provide. It will take a coordinated societal effort to make significant changes. Understanding better how individuals just like us can become addicted to, and die from, fentanyl and methamphetamines is critical to reducing stigma and creating human-centered responses. Each of us can help drive public conversations and develop effective strategies for effective action. Humans are very effective change makers when we feel passionately about the importance of the goal,” said Dr. Boustead.

The Least of Us was nominated for a 2022 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2021. The Least of Us follows Quinones landmark Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury, 2015), which ignited awareness of the epidemic that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of lives and become deadliest drug scourge in the nation’s history. Dreamland won a National Book Critics Circle award for the Best Nonfiction Book of 2015.

The Least of Us is available for checkout from the Library in physical and digital formats. Numerous “read and share” copies were funded by Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, to encourage circulation of the title within the community. (Please note: the audiobook is not available from the Library in downloadable audio or book CD format.)

About All Hands Whatcom

All Hands Whatcom was established this year as a call to listening, healing, and action for our community in response to the devastating consequences of fentanyl, meth, and opioids in our community. All Hands Whatcom is committed to creating spaces for civic dialogue and community-built, cross-sector planning to expand prevention, support healing, and cultivate a community of care. An Evening with Sam Quinones is a sponsored event to support community learning, dialogue, and civil discourse.

Sponsors of All Hands Whatcom 2023 include: Whatcom County Health and Community Services, City of Bellingham, Chuckanut Health Foundation, Mount Baker Foundation, Northwest Youth Services, Peace Health, Whatcom Community Foundation, Northwest Washington Medical Society, RAM Construction, Bellingham Public Schools, Barron Quinn Blackwood, Birch Bay Blaine Thrives, Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lautenbach Recycling, Brambleberry, and Bellingham Public Library.

For more information, see ChuckanutHealthFoundation.org/allhands, BellinghamPublicLibrary.org, and WhatcomHope.org.

Media Contacts:

Annette Bagley, Bellingham Public Library, ambagley@cob.org, 360-778-7206

Janice Keller, City of Bellingham, jkeller@cob.org, 360-778-8100

Heather Flaherty, Chuckanut Health Foundation, HeatherFlaherty@chuckanuthealthfoundation.org