Skip to main content.

Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca’s Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Fellowship Story Showcase

Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca’s Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

This article was written by Noozhawk Staff Writer Giana Magnoli as part of Day 7 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.

 

Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

Veteran youth and family treatment program director urges parents to 'lock up their medication'
Noozhawk
Sunday, October 2, 2011

Name: Kevin Smith

Location: Santa Barbara

Role: Addiction recovery worker

After being addicted to heroin and alcohol for 26 years, Kevin Smith has spent the last 19 years of his life sober, and helping those in Santa Barbara County battle the same demons he faced two decades before.

Shortly after completing treatment in 1993, Smith utilized his new sobriety by working with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, whose mission is to build a safer, healthier community by preventing and treating alcoholism and drug abuse.

In 1994, Smith helped initiate a mock drug court in Santa Barbara County in an effort to help addicts and abusers stay on a treatment course.

“In the mock court we take those in detox and place them in front of a judge and tell them they have to do their treatment,” said Smith. “We found that the mock court has about a 50 percent success rate.”

Today, Smith works at Zona Seca, where he serves as director of the nonprofit organization’s Youth and Family Treatment program and supervises its criminal justice program’s policies and procedures.

“Zona Seca helps an individual get into recovery, and by doing that it helps bring families together, and makes our community a safer place to live again,” Smith told Noozhawk.

Working with juveniles, Smith said he has witnessed a shifting trend in the types of substances that adolescences are abusing. While alcohol and marijuana abuse are most popular among teenagers, Smith said there has been a spike in the number of adolescents in treatment for prescription medications.

“The youth will steal prescription drugs from their parents,” Smith said. “But there are more and more people getting prescriptions. I’m not saying anything bad about our doctors, but they prescribe for conditions. If someone is having a little stress in their life, they are given a benzodiazepine. We need to talk to parents about locking up their medication.”

Along with working with juveniles in recovery, part of Smith’s responsibilities includes coordinating with the county court system to ensure that patients are on the right track to rehabilitation.

“I go in an hour before court and talk about each client’s progress,” Smith said. “I work as part of a treatment team consisting of the judge, public defender, district attorney and probation. I focus on treatment and then we do a casing to see if someone is doing well. They are given incentives to do well and there are consequences if they aren’t doing so well.”

But as the state of California faces continued budget deficits and widespread spending cuts, Smith is concerned about the future of funding for organizations like Zona Seca and its treatment work and the mock trial program. He says budget cuts in Santa Barbara County could have a significant negative impact.

“Because we’re going through such a recession, we’re having less funding for treatments,” Smith said. “And at the same time I think there are about 33,000 people being released early from prison, and the majority of them have substance abuse issues. We’re looking at some very heavy times without funding.”

Noozhawk intern Tim Fucci can be reached at tim.fucci@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.