FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The Historic Fayette Theater was full of community members wanting to make a positive impact on the area’s heroin epidemic.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, Health Department and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office put together a roundtable discussion on the local heroin epidemic. The centerpiece of the event was a free showing of the Netflix documentary “Heroin(e)”.
Filmed in Huntington and directed by Logan County-native Elaine McMillion Sheldon, the film follows three women doing their part to help their community handle the epidemic. As the credits rolled and the lights came on, some in the Fayetteville crowd could be seen wiping tears. It was evident they wanted to help, but some were unsure how.
When asked how they could assist, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah said combating the drug epidemic starts at an early age.
“How do we break the chain of addiction? We do that with the kids and the youth. Positive role models, little league baseball, sports, music, arts…whatever the kids want to do. We’ve got to support that and we’ve got to support it heavily. That’s how we do it.”
Sheriff Mike Fridley admitted his mindset toward treatment and recovery have changed dramatically since he took the role January 1. He reported that Fayette County had 116 overdoses in 2016.
Since January 1 of this year, the same county has had 351 recorded overdoses.
While those statistics are alarming, Sheriff Fridley assured that his department is doing everything it can to try to help reverse that trend. Since 2016, several eligible participants have successfully graduated from the county’s drug court and are now productive members of society. The court does not accept people with a record of violent crime, sexual offenders or drug dealers.
Three graduates of the drug court spoke to the crowd. Courtney Shepherd was among the first to take part in the program, which opened in 2016. She believes encouragement is essential to an addict’s successful recovery.
“We need positivity, we don’t need someone telling us ‘you know, you’re a piece of crap’ or ‘you’re not going to do this with your life’. I mean how is that helping anyone? I didn’t have hope that I could change. I would have never in a million years had hope that I was going to graduate drug court. It was possible and it was all of these people that actually cared.”
Harrah nodded, adding that the program has already had a high success rate.
“This works guys, there’s no doubt about it, it works. I wish you could see a before and after picture of these folks right here. It would blow your mind. It would make you so unbelievably proud of them.”
Near the end of the nearly two-hour roundtable discussion, an announcement was made. Terry Daniels of Recovery Point in Bluefield said there are plans in the works to possibly build a rehabilitation center in Mount Hope. Details of the center, including funding, are still being worked out.
The possibility of a center in Fayette County was a breath of fresh air for residents who feel there are not enough resources close to home.
Telina Humphrey spoke highly of the roundtable event and hoped to see many more like it. She serves as the Director of Celebrate Recovery at Gatewood Church of God in Fayetteville.
“I absolutely love this. I’m so thankful for what Mr. Fridley and Mr. Harrah’s doing. I (saw) this thing that said that ‘if you want change, it starts with you’. It takes all of us working together. We can make a difference.”
Before closing, someone asked if there were going to be more events similar to Wednesday night’s.
“Absolutely,” responded Sheriff Fridley.
The 38-minute “Heroin(e)” documentary is available on Netflix.