Daniel Taylor was a smart kid who did well in school. He was also a heroin addict. After inpatient treatment, he received counseling, support and lasting help from Kent Youth and Family Services, an agency supported by The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy.

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As a student at Federal Way High School, Daniel Taylor wanted to stand out. He was on the swim team and in student government, worked a full-time job and enrolled in a program that let him take community-college classes as a junior.

“I wanted my parents to be very proud of me,” he said.

Ultimately, though, his ambition was derailed by drugs, he said. First it was bootleg Adderall, a prescription medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that helped focus his concentration as he worked to keep up with the frenzy of activities.

Kent Youth and Family Services

Provides professional counseling, education and support to children, teens and families for issues including addiction, mental-health problems and parenting challenges.


Each year, The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy raises money for a group of charities that help children, families and senior citizens. Throughout the fall and winter, The Times is telling how the 12 organizations make a difference in the lives of thousands, and the impact donors can make.   Click here to donate to Fund For The Needy.

“It seemed like the answer to everything,” Taylor recalled.

Then came cocaine, a stronger stimulant acquired from his older, savvier college friends. And, finally, heroin, tried once as an experiment — then used again and again.

By October 2014, Taylor did stand out — at 17, the only injection heroin drug user in an outpatient substance-abuse teen-support group run by Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS).

“It was weird,” said Taylor, who is about to turn 19. “It’s not like in second grade I raised my hand and said I wanted to be a heroin addict.”

But Taylor — who flashes bright eyes and a quick smile under his dark knit cap — made it through, and is among the success stories claimed by the 45-year-old nonprofit that serves some 6,000 young people and their families each year.

With about $4.2 million in annual revenue, including funds from state and federal agencies, health-insurance payments and private payers, KYFS runs on a shoestring, said Executive Director Michael Heinisch.

“In most years, we record a small surplus and/or a deficit,” he said. “But we have to work hard constantly, daily, to maintain funding through all the sources we can and do access, while being accountable for every dollar and service provided.”

KYFS is one of 12 groups benefiting from The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy.

Taylor is a success, in part, because he’s still alive. That’s an achievement at a time when local, state and federal officials say overdose deaths, including deaths from heroin, are on the rise.

Your dollars at work

Samples of what Kent Youth and Family Services can do with your donation:

$25: Will buy pizza for a substance-abuse treatment group session for young people.

$50: Will pay for the cost of a chemical-dependency counselor for a 90-minute session.

$100: Will buy two $50 gift cards for young people who graduate, successfully completing substance-abuse treatment services.

For information: www.kyfs.org

Fatal overdoses linked to heroin jumped nearly 60 percent in King County in 2014, when 156 deaths were recorded, up from 99 in 2013, according to research from the University of Washington.

Statewide, deaths from prescription opioids declined, even as heroin overdoses surged in 2014, killing 293 people. That figure is double the 146 heroin-involved deaths recorded in 2008, health-department data show.

Nationally, drug-overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014, with more than 47,000 tallied, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from heroin tripled between 2010 and 2014, the CDC said.

Taylor never overdosed, but he knows he could have. He was in bad shape — broke, sick and homeless — when he called his father from a Denny’s restaurant two summers ago and asked for help, he said.

“I had track marks up and down my arms,” Taylor recalled. “My dad said, ‘You’re going to rehab.’ ”

He was admitted to an inpatient addiction-treatment program where he spent more than a month, including two attempts to run away. Taylor grew up in a family where struggles with drugs and alcohol were common, said his grandmother, Myrna Taylor, 69, of Federal Way. Everyone knew he needed help.

After leaving inpatient treatment, Taylor arrived at KYFS in October 2014 and counselors there said they immediately believed he had the potential to succeed.

“You could really see he’s this diamond in the rough,” said Melinda Engbert, who helps lead many of the substance-abuse support groups for 11- to 21-year-olds.

Treatment at KYFS is based on a so-called “harm reduction” model that stresses practical strategies for dealing with the negative consequences of drug use, noted Paula Frederick, director of behavioral-health programs.

It’s based on the notion that drug use is part of the world and that it’s better to minimize the harmful effects of abuse rather than ignore or condemn them.

Growing numbers of programs use medications such as methadone or Suboxone to treat heroin addiction, noted Caleb Banta-Green, an expert in drug-abuse epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health.

“Opiate addiction is so widespread and it’s a fatal condition,” he said.

But there’s concern at KYFS and elsewhere about prescribing another drug to treat a drug-abuse problem — especially among adolescents who could wind up needing medication for years, Frederick said.

“Particularly for adolescents and young adults … there may be possible relapses as part of the process of healing, but the goal is abstinence from drugs and alcohol, not an opiate substitution,” she said.

After a relapse in fall 2014, Taylor said he has been clean for more than 13 months — a pronouncement that drew applause from his former counselors.

He credits the support and understanding of the KYFS group sessions with helping him muster the strength to get sober.

“I did not believe I was going to get clean,” he said. “But I can proudly say it’s been over a year — and it’s amazing.”

Taylor is working again, now as a shift manager at a local fast-food restaurant. He graduated from Federal Way High in June, and is heading back to college, where he said he hopes to study writing.

Myrna Taylor, his grandmother, said she trusts Taylor enough to let him live with her — and she said she believes his sobriety will stick.

“He’s proven it,” she said. “And Grandma does not put up with crap.”