Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor reportedly relapsed from opiate addiction and suffered a heroin overdose Wednesday night.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – An old albatross demon reared its ugly head Wednesday night as Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor reportedly relapsed from his recovery from opiate addiction and suffered a heroin overdose.
The incident allegedly occurred after items related to intravenous drug use were found at the Safford Fire Department where Taylor volunteers as a firefighter. Taylor was reportedly found unresponsive at his home by a family member Wednesday night. Paramedics arrived and administered a dose of Narcan to help reverse the effects and Taylor was revived at the scene.
While paramedics usually take patients who receive Narcan to the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for further treatment and assessment, according to MGRMC Director of Public Relations and Marketing Ryan Rapier, the hospital does not have a record of Taylor recently being admitted.
Taylor is a sixth-generation Arizonan who was born and raised in Safford. A standout athlete who attained the rank of Eagle Scout, Taylor served two tours of combat duty for the Army in Afghanistan, following the example of his father – who saw combat duty in Vietnam – and both grandfathers who saw combat duty in Korea.
In his role as Pride of Safford Committee Chairman, Taylor recently presented the Pride of Safford Award to Mayor Jason Kouts and his wife, Maria, on Jan. 23 at the premiere of the documentary film “Josiah”, which is about the Kouts’ son who passed Jan. 23, 2018, in an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. At the award presentation, Taylor praised Jason and Maria for their efforts in the battle against opiate addiction and their response to Josiah’s death.
On Wednesday, Mayor Kouts expressed his desire to support Taylor through this trying time.
“I believe in our community,” he said. “I believe in love and support, and as the mayor of Safford, I am going to stand with Chris for the help that he wants and the help that he needs. I love them, and my heart aches for Sarah as well. As far as Maria and I, we know the touch of drugs and my heart aches for them as a family. I will go to the ends of the earth to help fight this drug epidemic that is affecting our Valley and will be there beside Chris in the long-haul recovery help in whatever he chooses to do and always hope for the best.
Maria and I stand with the family and offer all that we have in help fighting this with them. I believe Chris is going to get the help that is so needed and hope and pray that God restores him and his family.”
Taylor previously went through opioid addiction and overcame that evil to found Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery, a nonprofit organization that was dedicated to helping individuals – especially fellow combat veterans – suffering from drug addiction. Taylor ran the nonprofit as executive director for four years. In 2016, Taylor ran for the Safford City Council and received the most votes of the four various candidates for the three open seats. In May 2019, he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Rep. CD-1, currently held by Tom O’Halleran (D).
While announcing his candidacy, Taylor spoke candidly about his past opiate addiction.
“The experiences that I’ve had with opiate addiction and being able to overcome that and inspire and help others to find that recovery as well are a source of strength,” Taylor said. “Just like any issue, government programs aren’t the answer. But, I think that we can better spend federal grant dollars and we can strategically place them into the private sector and into charitable nonprofit organizations that are best equipped to combat that issue. And it goes hand-in-hand with the border. We have to cut off the flow of heroin and fentanyl that is flooding our communities and killing our children. It seems like a whole generation is being wiped out and it’s because of ineffective policies and our inability to do what’s needed. And a big part of that is erasing that negative stigma associated with addiction where people who really want help are afraid to reach out because of the public shame that comes with it . . . This is a problem that knows no demographic. It doesn’t discriminate. Addiction hits every single race, every gender, every political class, and every economic class. Everybody knows somebody who is suffering from addiction and it cripples our families. To have a strong nation, we need to have strong families.”
Mayor Kouts also spoke about the need to destigmatize drug addiction.
“The thing that I definitely want from the community is to stop the shame,” Mayor Kouts said. “When an individual comes out and asks for help we should be there as a community and wrap our arms around them in love and want the best for them. We should never shame somebody. I want the best and we’ll dive in as much as they will allow us to.”
While the community rallies to bring a sober living house and possibly a rehabilitation center to the Safford area, currently there are three local outpatient facilities that assist with opiate addiction, including Community Medical Services, Awakening Recovery Center, and Canyonlands Healthcare Safford.
Efforts to reach Chris Taylor were not successful.