Pocahontas Prescription Drug Summit Offers Ideas Addressing A Serious Problem In The County
Marlinton, WV – It takes a community to stop prescription drug abuse – that was the clear message at a drug abuse summit held at the Pocahontas Opera House last week. The event was sponsored by the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition and several civic minded state agencies. The overwhelming theme of the meeting is that no one entity can solve the problem alone, as summed up in this excerpt from a short pre-recorded speech by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin that opened the meeting.
“Drug abuse can only be combated if all facets work together – looking the other way is not an option” says Manchin. “Community leaders, businesses, government and citizens must step [up] to the plate and be part of the solution.”
But how do you motivate the community to get involved? Summit Coordinator Thomas Peterson, says the Prevention Coalition started with a series of community meetings around the county this past summer, gathering input and ideas from a variety of residents, including some former drug abusers. He says after analyzing the information they discovered most people are concerned about education and reporting.
“There’s a lack of awareness of the danger” says Peterson “they take that [because] it’s a prescription drug they think its safe. It was given by a doctor; no harm no foul. People are also unaware of the proper disposal techniques.”
He says the wrong thing to do is to flush unused drugs down the toilet where they could potentially contaminate water sources. And while the county does have alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous chapters, the nearest drug rehabilitation facility can be two to three hours away. Peterson says the other issue is reporting.
“People are concerned with a lack of confidentiality” he says. “They worry “Are they going to find out it was me that told on them?” – unfortunately that’s a struggle with such a small community such as this. People also fear retaliation – are they going to something to me, are they going to something to my property, to my family.”
Peterson says they’ve come up with an action plan breaking down responsibilities into three categories – what an individual can do, what the community can do, and what the Prevention Coalition can do. He says individuals can get involved with the auxiliary county police force, participate in community anti drug events, and support rather than enable those who are trying to escape drug abuse. He’s also a big supporter of community watches.
“We’re looking to establish a working community watch in different areas of the county” says Peterson. “Up in Durbin, Green Bank, Frost, Dunmore, [and]Slatyfork. I need specific people in those respective areas that are willing to head that up. We’re going to be partnering with the Sheriffs office to find out what the specifics are that we need to do; any training that’s involved.”
Peterson says he’s working to create a group in Green Bank. He also urges people to support getting a recovery center established in the county, something that is also near and dear to the heart of Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese.
As for the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition, he says they’ll continue with their educational efforts in the schools; but also in doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies. They’ll also use the local media and businesses to get their message out.
“Utilizing local business as partners, we plan on having them help us plan for events as well as spread general information to the public” says Peterson. “People can choose to not read the paper, they can choose to not listen to the radio – it’s kind of hard to avoid buying food and gas for your car.”
Peterson says they also hope to organize more “take back” programs where people can turn over unused prescription drugs for proper disposal. He says a take back event is scheduled for Saturday, September 25th at the West Virginia State Police Marlinton detachment.