Drug Town Hall Meeting Highlights Necessity For A Community Solution

Marlinton, WV – West Virginia State Senator Walt Helmick says when it comes down to the biggest issue in healthcare, behavior and drug abuse, all counties in the state are affected by this issue in one way or another.

“It’s bigger than the Marcellus shale issue, bigger than mountain top removal, bigger than a lot of the issues that we see every day,” says Helmick. “But for some reason we don’t get the attention this issue is necessary. It affects the way that we operate, as a family, as a community, as individuals and when we try to put together a work force to support the necessary needs of West Virginia, we find that our work force now is saturated with people that can’t pass a drug test.”

Helmick was speaking at a drug town hall meeting at the Pocahontas Opera House on September 1st. The meeting was the second in as many years, sponsored by the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition. Helmick says it’s not enough for the state legislature to simply throw more money at the situation. He says you have to figure out the root of the problem and places the responsibility for doing that squarely on everyones shoulders.

“In West Virginia, one of our biggest problems is that we will not admit when we do have major problems,” he says. “We’re admitting here tonight, and we’ve admitted throughout the previous year that we have a problem with narcotics. Get to the bottom, tell us what the problem is, and then we’ll make every effort to fund it like we do any other major problem in West Virginia.”

Dr. Michael O’Neill, Chairman of the West Virginia Controlled Substances Advisory Board offers his take on the prescription drug abuse problem. He’s been practicing in the area of trauma/emergency medicine for over a quarter of century and is well acquainted with pain management.

“According to the national/World Health Organization about pain management, we’re all only one step away from being appropriately prescribed an opiate,” he says. “So be very careful, because when we say drugs are bad, drugs are addictive, for every person you tell that, I can show you a patient who has cancer or is going to die in the next six months that will not take their Oxycontin because they’re afraid they’re going to become addicted.”

He says studies done on drug use and abuse have shown some interesting conclusions.

“The studies for our state show that kids are more comfortable taking a prescription pill regardless of the age than they are smoking a cigarette,” says Dr. O’Neill. “It means we’ve done a really good job with cigarette smoking, and it says we’re doing a really lousy job with prescription drugs.”

Marcie Vaughan, Vice President of Clinical Services for Senaca Health Services, talked about the challenges they see with prescription drug abuse issues.

“There are lots of individuals who are addicted to opiates as pain medicine that do not need to go into inpatient treatment,” she says. “But they do need to learn how to return to a life without drugs. We need to return to a focus of social skills, they need to learn how to solve problems.”

She says it’s these individuals who have lost jobs and ostracisized themselves from family and friends that Seneca seeks to help in transitioning back as a contributing member of society.

Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Donna Meadows Price was asked how the county can stop the revolving door of repeat drug offenders. She says part of the problem is pressure from county government to keep the jail bill down, part of it is wanting to give offenders a chance to prove they can live a drug free life. But she says in some cases she’s fighting a problem rooted in several generations of a family, making it even more difficult to eradicate.

Several members of the Marlinton Town Council were also in attendance at the meeting, as well as House Delegate Denise Campbell. For more information about the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition, please call 304-799-2509.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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