PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin held a drug summit Tuesday night at WVU Parkersburg to address what is now widely being referred to as an epidemic in the state of West Virginia.
A delegation attended the summit that included residents, including former drug users, law enforcement, police officers and elected officials to discuss issues in a town hall format. Manchin addressed the issue, saying that the widespread use of drugs has affected almost everyone directly or indirectly.
“If you look around this room, whether you’re a policeman, or whether you’re just one of us out in the crowd, there’s not one person here that doesn’t know someone in their family or extended family who has not been affected,” Manchin told the crowd. “Not one of us. It is rampant, it is of epidemic proportions.”
Goodwin talked about how prescription drug abuse has led to heroin, which is so dangerous because of the unknown element of the drug.
“It’s not in a neat little package with 30 milligrams or even 80 milligrams of a controlled substance,” Goodwin said. “It can be 20 percent potency or 80 percent potency and you won’t know. Because of that, the chances of overdosing grow exponentially.”
He said that drug abuse accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the property crime in West Virginia counties. Manchin said that it wasn’t just a West Virginia problem.
“This is a national problem. It’s not just our state and West Virginia, or just Wood County,” Manchin said. “We have 19 counties in West Virginia that are currently designated high drug-trafficking areas.”
Goodwin said that the epidemic has affected both the smallest of small towns and big cities alike, but even as a federal prosecutor he knows it’s not an issue that can be fixed by arrests alone.
“We’ve prosecuted an investigated literally hundreds of drug dealers,” he said. “But enforcement is not enough. It takes education, it takes reaching out to schools, letting kids know the dangers that they face.”
Manchin told a story of a discussion in which a group of kids told him that the easiest place to get prescription drugs was right in their homes.
“I had a group of young people in Wheeling. I said just tell me where the drugs are coming from,” Manchin recalled. “They said the medicine cabinet. Mom or grandma got a prescription for pain killers and didn’t use them all. Before you know it your kids bringing it to school and passing them around.”
A law was recently passed allowing citizens to carry Noloxone, an antidote to opiate overdoses. Previously, only medical personnel had access to the drug. Goodwin thought the drug could prove effective in the hands of family and friends, using the analogy that “like an EpiPen is to allergic reactions, Noloxone is to overdoses.”
WMOV of Ravenswood provided a live stream over the radio of the summit. The Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley sponsored the event.