It does not take a very careful look through this newspaper to find the evidence of our region’s struggle against the onslaught of substance abuse at epidemic proportions. From methamphetamine labs to prescription painkiller rings – with a little heroin thrown in to keep police forces on their toes, the Mid-Ohio Valley is in the midst of a plague that will require enormous effort to defeat.

Of course, we are not alone, as communities across West Virginia face one variation of the problem or another. That is why Wednesday’s public meeting of the governor’s Substance Abuse Task Force at the Wood County Department of Health and Human Resources office is so important. Organizers are hoping for community participation that will give them a clearer picture of the problems, and the differences in those problems, faced by six regions across the state.

Concerned members of the public simply seeking more information or wishing to describe their own experiences should be joined by members of law enforcement, doctors, treatment providers, family members and recovering addicts who will provide some perspective for officials looking for ways to stop this scourge.

Kathy Paxton, director of Substance Abuse Service Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, said the meetings also provide a place for those in the grip of substance abuse – and their families – to learn how to get help and navigate the systems available.

As important as the information gathered at these meetings will be, however, Paxton stressed, “We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we’re not going to see all the results we need immediately.”

These public efforts are a starting point, and vital to the attempt to battle against the demons pressing down on our region. Anyone who can be of some help – or who needs some help – should attend.