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Huntington officials met with the media Monday to discuss how they’re dealing with the drug epidemic.
Late last year, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams established the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. Their mission was to establish a link between law enforcement and treatment facilities. The hope was to find an alternative approach to dealing with the drug epidemic, by the treating the users. In the meantime, though, Cabell County has seen 134 overdoses 18 deaths since the beginning of the year. If that rate continues, the county could see 680 overdoses and 91 deaths by the end of 2015.
What we have to do is start saving lives, our own neighbors are at risk, we have to do anything and everything that’s necessary to show that we will not leave a stone unturned to insure that our family members and neighbors, and we’re going to do everything we can to save them. – Huntington Mayor Steve Williams
Since creating the Office of Drug Control Policy they’ve hurriedly been establishing connections with treatment facilities and finding ways to get those in need into those facilities. In that time the office has come up with five new initiatives they hope to implement soon to begin to slow down the amount of overdoses and deaths in the city. The programs according to the city are:
- LEAD Program – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. Through this program, low-level offenders engaged in drugs or prostitution will be directed to treatment facilities instead of jail time.
- Cape 2 Grant – Will allow for development of early-warning protocol in order to be proactive in dealing with addition.
- Hard Reduction – Program that prevents people from causing irreversible damage to themselves and others. Will focus on stopping the spread of infectious diseases as well as promote treatment options.
- Call WV – Platform will assist first responders, healthcare workers, the faith-based community and general public in locating available services.
- Treatment and Recovery Center – Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy has been in discussions with a private entity to provide up to 100 treatment and recover beds in the region.
We’ve been doing the same thing for 50 years, it hasn’t worked. The drug problem has got worse. Is this going to be the solution? I don’t know. But I know what we were doing does not work so we have to be innovative, we have to think outside of the box and we have to radically change our thinking and get out of our comfort zone. – Director of Office of Drug Control Policy, Jim Johnson
According to city officials, the average age of someone who has overdosed in Cabell County is 36.