One Woman's Mission Against Heroin Addiction

May 29, 2014

Patti Barnabei (right) is the founder of Never Alone West Virginia.
Credit Stacy Cullinan

Editor's Note: This week we have been airing a series of stories concerning heroin, and the problems it’s creating in the state. Today we conclude our series by introducing you to a woman who’s fighting back against the drug’s influence in one of the hardest hit communities.

Patti Barnabei raised her three children in Weirton, in the state’s northern Panhandle. Over the years, she says heroin has become a major problem in her town, and it has taken the lives of some young people she’s known. Barnabei founded a group called Never Alone West Virginia, a non-profit trying to raise awareness of heroin’s problems in the community. It started in 2010 when she heard the song by Jim Brickman.

"It just confirmed that was the name of this group was supposed to be called. So many people struggling with this addiction feel so alone. They feel the addiction is not going to end and they are embarrassed," she said.

"I tell people when you come you don’t have to be embarrassed. We are there to be your friend, to help you get through this. The main thing is you have to have hope."

Never Alone conducts a support group in Weirton, which brings together heroin addicts and their family members. Barnabei says the group meets weekly to pray, and work with anyone facing problems with heroin.

"I don’t have anybody personally in my family that’s struggling with addiction, but I just feel at times there were times when I wanted to give up, and say ok I think I’ve had enough, or we’re not getting a big attendance at the support groups," she said.

"It seems that God has always opened up a door. When I think something’s closing God opens another door."

Barnabei says the group recently received a donation from a family that lost a loved one to the addiction. Never Alone West Virginia currently only works in Weirton and New Cumberland, but Barnabei wants the group to expand and she’s trying to get more communities involved. Never Alone does a walk every year to raise money and awareness. She says it’s imperative that people who are facing heroin addiction have hope.

"Without hope we can’t get anything accomplished. They also have to have people surrounding them that will support them with a strong faith, and believing their loved ones can be healed, and become whole again. Without that you can’t get through life," she said.

Nearly 300 people have died from heroin overdoses, in West Virginia, since 2001. Most of them are young males.