Julie Yust is a Shop Steward and Drug Addiction Treatment Counselor at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. She and her co-workers at the TPCHD provide counseling services for opiate dependent individuals.  Opiates are the fastest growing drug of dependency in the United States.  Julie says that the largest growing addict population is kids 18-24 years old.

1.  Talk about your work at the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department.

I work with opiate dependent individuals seeking recovery services.  We take away those cravings through medication and along with the medication we provide counseling.

2.  How can you assist someone who has substance abuse issues?

We work with them to reduce cravings, to stop usage, to change behaviors, and to establish support networks.  Every person gets individualized service. They progress through treatment with the ultimate goal of working themselves off methadone and into a drug-free life.

3.  What should a family member do if a loved one has substance abuse issues?

Often the biggest mistake we see family members make is to continue to assist the person in staying sick.  They don’t want to hurt the person any more than they are already hurting so they continue to fund their addictions.  People should provide emotional support, but that doesn’t mean the kind of co-dependency that allows them to sponge off of you forever.

4.  What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I love it when someone is successful and starts their life over. We see folks become successful in their communities, they get back involved in their kids’ lives, or their own lives, or their families.  We have folks who start their own businesses. They become active in their own world again. 

5.  What does it mean to be a Teamster?

It means I’m never alone.  Every time I’m out in the community, I see someone with a Teamsters bumper sticker or a Teamsters hat or a Teamsters t-shirt.  Or I talk to someone and I say, ‘Yeah, I’m a member of the Teamsters,’ and they tell me about how their grandparents were union members.  That solidarity crosses so many boundaries and barriers.  It’s about building community.

6.  How can we build a stronger union?

Get involved. As a Shop Steward, I’m taking the flag and I’m running with it. I would challenge everyone to do the same.  The strength of the Union is its members.  The members being active is where that voice comes from.  If we’re not showing up, if we’re not supporting each other, why are we in the Union?  We may as well be sitting home, watching Jerry Springer.