‘Heroin Highway’ cuts right through Berkeley County

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —  It was standing room only at the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in Martinsburg where U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito hosted a Drug Prevention Summit Monday.

State and local officials joined with representatives from the medical community, area businesses and private citizens to discuss what has become an epidemic in Berkeley County and the rest of the state.

The National Director of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program at the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Gottlieb spoke about the challenges of treating addiction and said it will take everyone going outside of their comfort zone and working together to solve the problem.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia William Ihlenfeld II also spoke, expressing support and optimism for the expansion of drug courts in West Virginia.

Ihlenfeld added that Berkeley County was recently made part of HIDTA, which will bring resources to the table.

Part of the issue is location.

Special Agent Jeff Cisar with the FBI Martinsburg Office called Interstate 81 from Chambersburg, PA to Winchester, VA the “Heroine Highway”.

He said easy access makes heroin common and cheap.

According to Cisar, many addicts start out using prescription pain medication but switch to heroin due to expense.

Everyone present recognized a lack of resources in the Eastern Panhandle, from access to medication to the complete absence of in-patient treatment facilities.

Senator Capito said she had been focusing on the supply chain, but would be looking more to treatment options for those suffering from addiction after hearing from residents during the summit.

No specific steps were taken Monday, but Tom Carr, the Executive Director of Washington-Baltimore HIDTA said he would be bringing his treatment staff to Berkeley County to identify the needs of the community to focus HIDTA funding where it could do the most good.

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