Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 3, 2012

Plan of attack —  McDowell targets drug scourge

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The region’s rampant scourge of prescription drug-abuse is an epidemic that has touched families across the region, both young and old alike. And the drug problem has taken a particularly troubling toll on McDowell County in recent months.

One area that has been hit hard is the county’s Big Creek District. With an estimated population of only 6,000, the district has recorded more than 100 overdose deaths in the past five years — an alarming statistic. The drug epidemic has captured both national and international headlines, including a recent Australian Broadcasting Corporation report and a story in Playboy magazine.

County officials in return have been pushing for the development of two related drug-treatment facilities in the county. And they are actively campaigning for a new detoxification and stabilization unit recommended by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse and six regional task forces. The county is also working to develop a new Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment program in cooperation with Welch Community Hospital, the new teen drug court program, and the county’s alternative sentencing program.

As currently proposed, a team of intervention specialists would be stationed at the hospital on certain evenings, as well as on weekends, holidays and during the first of the month. If an accident or injury involving alcohol or drugs is reported at the hospital, the individual in return could be referred on the spot to the brief intervention and treatment program, according to County Manager Clif Moore.

 The long-planned Suboxone treatment facility will operate out of the existing Southern Highlands facilities in Welch. The county is working with West Virginia University in search of grant funding to help provide doctors, and new equipment for the facility. Moore, also a member of the House of Delegates serving Delegate District 26, hopes to see both the Suboxone clinic, and the related drug-treatment clinic for women, operational by the end of the year.

The proposed drug-treatment center for women is being funded through a special legislative appropriation authorized by lawmakers during the last legislative session. Moore says the facility will be constructed by a private developer. However, officials are still working to finalize the property deed and lease for the project.

And while the state hasn’t ruled on which county will house the new region six detox unit, officials with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin say McDowell County is on the short list for the facility. Region six also includes Mercer and Raleigh counties.

This four-step approach to address the drug epidemic is a good start. But the drug epidemic is a crisis. And it will take a team effort of law enforcement, human-service agencies, elected leaders and concerned citizens working together to help stem this deadly tied of prescription drug abuse. And it will take drug treatment and detox and rehabilitation facilities to ultimately help those bound by the chains of addiction.

Every day McDowell County, and southern West Virginia, goes without a detox and rehabilitation facility is another day lost for those who are struggling to overcome addiction. The development of these critical facilities must be expedited for McDowell County.