Connecting With The Police Helped Her Get Sober

By Kelly Burch 06/05/19

Sending a single text message helped one woman living with addiction get the help she needed to start her sober journey.

sober woman who connected with police for help

When Shannon McCarty realized that she wanted to start living life—and not just try to escape it by using meth and heroin—she knew that she could turn to a police officer who had slipped her a card and said to call when she was ready for help. 

So, McCarty mustered the courage to send the following text to Officer Inci Yarkut, a member of the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team with the Everett, Washington Police Department, according to NPR.

"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.”

That message set things in motion, and today McCarty has been sober for 10 months. Along the way Yarkut has helped her navigate sobriety, connecting McCarty with community resources like a local bus pass. 

Yarkut said that success stories like McCarty’s show that community policing can have a big impact on helping people stay sober. Since the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team was founded in 2016, it has helped the department connect with people struggling with substance abuse, rather than just arresting them. 

"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. 

The interaction between Yarkut and McCarty shows how a different approach to policing addiction can work. Yarkut first met McCarty when someone called the police because McCarty was shooting up in a car. But instead of arresting her, Yarkut opened a door. 

"I explained who I was and what my role in the police department was," Yarkut said. ”[I] 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.”

Today, McCarty is a far cry from the skinny and pale woman who Yarkut met that first night. 

"She looks healthy,” Yarkut said. “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.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.