BOSTON, Mass. — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is representing his city in Boston this week for a meeting with five other cities impacted by the opioid epidemic.
“The intent is for city leaders to come together with their teams to address how we might be able to align our resources to fight the opioid epidemic. We’re going to learn from one another,” Williams told MetroNews in a phone interview Wednesday.
Williams is meeting with city leaders from Knoxville, Tennessee; Madison, Wisconsin; Manchester, New Hampshire; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Tacoma, Washington for the Mayors’ Institute on Opioids.
The three-day event, which began Tuesday, will be followed by 12 months of ongoing expert assistance tailored to each participating city’s needs with the work building on local efforts already underway.
Williams said he wants to find out how those cities utilize their policing efforts, not just to combat the crimes, but to help people get into recovery. He also wants to hear about job creation.
“There’s a lot to discuss here,” Williams said. “Frankly, the most important one is how are the cities actually creating jobs to establish hope for folks because I believe that’s the greatest prescription that we can have to actually overcome this epidemic.”
Williams and other leaders at the local, state and federal level have been working tirelessly to fix the drug problem for more than three years. Huntington was the smallest city at the meeting. Williams said he wants the other cities to know they’ve already made great strides to address concerns.
“We’ve created a quick response team that has been extremely effective,” he said. “I want to know if any of the other cities have done anything like that and what they’ve learned as a result of it.”
The cities plan to discuss prevention, treatment, recovery and effective harm reduction efforts.
Williams said he remains committed to fighting Huntington’s drug problem.
“If I don’t continue working on this, I don’t deserve to be mayor. This is why I’m here,” he said.
Overdoses in Cabell County have steadily declined 68 percent since August 2017, according to a news release from the city. There were 62 overdoses in April, a 64 percent drop compared to April 2017. Officials have attributed the decrease to building partnerships and innovative programs among various agencies over the years.
Williams said this is a citywide effort.
“Everybody has a role to play in defeating this. Those people who are complaining about it, typically, are the ones who aren’t doing anything about it,” he said.