Drug abuse task force meets in Wheeling

WHEELING – The Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse is making inroads toward curbing drug addiction problems in West Virginia, according to state officials and treatment experts.

The Governor’s Regional Substance Abuse Task Force for Region 1 met Monday in Wheeling at Northwood Health Systems to receive an update on the state’s plan to tackle drug addiction. Members learned two additional substance abuse programs are going to be established in the Northern Panhandle as a result of the council’s recommendations.

A women’s recovery center will be established within the YWCA in Wheeling and run through the Miracles Happen Residential Substance Abuse Program, said Kathy L. Paxton, director of the Division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for the West Virginia Bureau for Health and Health Facilities.

And a six-bed crisis intervention center focusing on substance abuse is coming to Healthways Inc. in Weirton, she added.

Stopping drug addiction is a focus for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said former state Sen. Ed Bowman, a Hancock County Democrat who now works as a field director for Tomblin.

“From what I hear, our area here in the Northern Panhandle has one of the highest rates of heroin use in the nation,” Bowman said. “I don’t have to tell you how scary that is.”

One of the state’s biggest problems is that employers have difficulty finding workers who can pass a drug test, he continued.

But Paxton said the problem of drug addiction is showing signs for improvement.

“We know the depths of the problems of drug abuse, but we don’t always know about the positives that are happening,” she said.

Most recent figures show that for the first time in many years, there has been a decrease in prescription drug abuse in West Virginia, Paxton noted.

“While some folks maybe change their drug … I still believe there will be some who won’t graduate from taking a pill to ingesting heroin,” she added.

Russ Taylor, Region 1 representative to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse, said he had at first been skeptical the council would make any headway in forcing action to curb drug addiction in the state. He admitted he was wrong, as it has resulted in at least two programs starting in the Northern Panhandle, and he said he will continue to push for more.