U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Booth Goodwin brought together local first responders, state health officials and substance abuse treatment specialists Tuesday to celebrate the success he sees in his district in combating drug abuse.
Goodwin said his office intends to continue enforcing federal laws that prohibit the sale of narcotics, but now, he and his colleagues are also focusing on the treatment side, looking at ways to curb the demand for the drugs.
Goodwin focused on the expanded use of Naloxone, a opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an overdose.
A drug that's been used by paramedics in the county for years, now some members of the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department have also been trained to administer it. Charleston Police Chief Brent Walker said Tuesday his department is also in the process of training to carry and use Naloxone.
“We believe that the paramedics at the Charleston Fire Department will do the bulk of it, but we want to be in a position to save a life if we can," he said.
Charleston City Council also passed an ordinance this week that will pave the way for a needle exchange program which Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Executive Director Michael Brumage said will help prevent the spread of some serious diseases like Hepatitis B and C and possibly HIV and AIDS.
“Just being able to bring somebody in and offering them a clean needle and at the same time exploring whether or not they would be willing to go into recovery, that’s a service we can offer to as part of this program," he said.
Brumage is working to model his program after the Cabell-Huntington needle exchange program that began this month, the first of its kind in the state. He believes Kanawaha County can have a program in place by December.
Goodwin also highlighted other success in the area, including Governor Tomblin's recently launched 24-hour helpline.
The call center, which can be reached at 844-HELP4WV, helps connect those in need of substance abuse or mental health treatment to providers in their communities.