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Parkersburg forum examines West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan

From left, Gary Krushansky, with the West Virginia National Guard Liaison Office of Drug Control Policy; Molly Bauer, program officer of Sisters Health Foundation, and Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens discuss the pros and cons of the West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

PARKERSBURG — The Office of Drug Control Policy and the Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment held a public forum at West Virginia University at Parkersburg Wednesday to receive comment on the West Virginia Substance Use Response Plan.

During the forum members of the community decided the most important ways to tackle substance abuse based on goals set by the plan’s committee.

The plan contains 18 goals, including ones addressing prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

The response plan can be viewed as a draft at HelpandHopeWV.org/odcp and comments can be submitted for further consideration.

At the public forum, attendees were able to read the draft of the response plan, talk with program officials and give feedback about what they liked, disliked and felt was missing.

At the public forum, attendees were able to read the draft of the response plan, talk with program officials and give feedback about what they liked, disliked and felt was missing. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

The plan’s committee will take information from these forums to decide the next steps to take in acting on solving the issue of substance abuse in the state.

“In this plan you will see a strategy, but not the tactics, because those are not yet developed. We need to gather feedback, make adjustments to the plan and then work out the tactics,” said Brian Gallagher, chairman of the Governor’s Council on Substance Disorder.

Gallagher pointed out that although many faith-based organizations are involved, there are many that shun those in recovery, or who need recovery due to stigmas.

“Christ himself embraced those others stigmatized,” said Gallagher.

Gallagher expressed that a huge focus needs to be on conquering the stigmas around recovery.

“We need to view our recovered as an asset not a liability,” he said.

Part of the plan, which many members of the public seemed to like, involves the Jobs and Hope West Virginia Program, which will help connect those leaving drug treatment centers and those in recovery with 12 transition agents who will help connect them with other state and private agencies to find job-training programs and help with finding jobs.

After full review, there were however a handful of concerns those in attendance had.

One topic in particular was age of education.

Teresa Bigley, an ER doctor at Marietta Memorial Hospital, was especially concerned that 7th grade is too late for kids to start learning about drugs.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens agreed, saying it should begin in elementary school.

“Back in my childhood it was ‘I took this from my dad’s liquor cabinet’. Today it’s ‘I took this from my parents drug stash’,” Stephens said.

In the crowd reviewing the plan was a handful of men participating in Recovery Point.

“I started using at 10-11 years old, because my friends had some,” said Joey with Recovery Point.

Joey also expressed great interest in West Virginia looking into Casey’s Law. Casey’s Law refers to the Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention. The law allows the parents, relatives or friends of an addicted person to lawfully intervene and request involuntary, court-ordered addiction treatment for their addicted loved one.

Sticking to the topic of involuntary, was an expressed need by law enforcement to make involuntary commitment mental hygiene examinations more streamline and available.

Mental hygiene is important especially for those with an addiction, Stephens said.

“We live in a world that wants a simple solution, ‘Here take this pill and you will be all better’,” said Gallagher.

Carles with Recovery Point said that Recovery Point helps those in the program learn how to cope in situations without turning to substance abuse.

Other forums are scheduled for Oct. 21 at the University of Charleston student union ballroom and Oct. 22 at the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office training center in Martinsburg. Others include one on Oct. 23 at Wheeling University’s Swint Hall and Oct. 24 at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont.

Public comments can be submitted at the forums.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com

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