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Task Forces begin round 11 of regional meetings

Ashton Marra

A task force trying to find solutions to the state’s drug problem conducted a meeting in Bridgeport last night to ask people living in north central West Virginia how to attack the problem in their area.

The task force is one of six across the state created after Governor Tomblin signed an executive order in 2011 creating the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse. Those task forces bring together business and community leaders along with law enforcement and caregivers to find ways to fight substance abuse in their areas.

In a room usually rented out for wedding receptions or retirement parties, nearly 100 citizens from around North Central West Virginia gathered to discuss solutions to a growing problem, not just in their communities, but in communities throughout the state.

That problem: drug abuse.

“For Clarksburg, West Virginia, if I would ask you what a norm would be for Clarksburg, West Virginia, with regard to substance use and abuse, what would you say they would think about Clarksburg, West Virginia?” asked Kathy Paxton, director of the Division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Paxton received responses like bath salts, heroine, and prescription drugs to her question, all things heavily abused in Clarksburg and the surrounding areas.

As Paxton and her group of facilitators began the Governor’s Regional Substance Abuse Task Force meeting in Bridgeport, they spilt those in attendance into smaller groups to begin discussing the priorities of the area including prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery. Groups were directed to pick the most important two from the list which will be considered at the state level for grant money awarded through the DHHR.

At a table near the back of the room, Kim Griffith from Doddridge County advocated for early education as a prevention method.

“Pin it at home to where these kids know the ramifications of possibly leading this type of lifestyle,” she said.

Credit Ashton Marra
Sheila Lipscomb and Tine Griffith of Doddridge County look over lists of previous priorities the region identified.

“I’ve had children come to me and say they’ve gone to their counselor and said that they felt really depressed and down,” said Tausha Moneypenny-Knight of Clarksburg, “and the counselor has told them, well, come back when you feel suicidal and so between that time they could be finding a drug that will help them cope with it.”

“They do not know how to handle the situation. I don’t think it’s a lack sympathy or empathy,” Griffith said. “I think it’s a lack of training. They don’t know how to handle these situations. How can you treat someone if you don’t know how to treat them?”

A table over, Jason Toste of Buckhannon shared stories of how drugs have affected his life.

“At 17-years-old I was charged with trafficking and from that point on I’ve never been able to get no type of assistance from the age of 17,” Toste said.

He and Shannon Garrett of Weston were discussing legislative changes in the ability to qualify for government aid programs, like food stamps and housing assistance, after being convicted of a drug crime.

“I think this would be great, but I am for trying to keep people off of thinking that they need to go get on food stamps and welfare,” Garrett said.

“We can’t look at it like they shouldn’t have done that, they shouldn’t have done this,” Toste replied. “We’ve got to look at that they’ve already done it, now that they’ve already done it, what can we do to help them?”

Similar discussions continued at tables around the room before the group came back together to take a survey on the priorities they want to focus on in their region.

Region 4, which includes 13 counties from Monongalia to Braxton and Doddridge to Tucker, decided their first priority was the continuation of prevention resource officers, or police officers stationed in schools also called PROs.

Credit Ashton Marra
Bridgeport High School PRO Officer Jamie Hamrick speaking with another participant at Thursday's meeting.

Their second, expanding the recovery coach network, both things Paxton said the region has focused state grant money toward in the past.

“That’s where a lot of the $7.5 million went to in this region. You’re priority was recovery coaches. So, you have more recovery coaches in this region than any other region,” she said, “therefore, I think that people recognize how important they are and what they can do so that’s the same things as the PROs.”

Statewide, Paxton said regions are also placing a 1-800 call center at the top of their lists. It would serve as a central place for anyone to call to find resources within their communities for treatment and recovery.

Regional meetings will continue over the next few weeks throughout the state. A list of their dates and locations is below:

Region 1: October 21, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel
Catholic Charities Center Ballroom
2000 Main Street, 3rd Floor
Wheeling, WV 26003

Region 5: October 22, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Mason, Putnam, Kanawha, Clay, Cabell, Wayne, Mingo, Logan, Lincoln, Boone
Brickstreet Insurance
4700 McCorkle Ave SE
Charleston, WV

Region 6: October 23, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Webster, Pocahontas, Nicholas, Fayette, Greenbrier, Raleigh, Summers, Monroe, Wyoming, Mercer, McDowell
Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center
200 Armory Drive
Beckley, WV 25801

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