Magistrate comments on area drug problem

WELLSBURG – A Brooke County magistrate commented on the area’s drug problem during a National Day of Prayer service held at the Wellsburg Town Square Thursday.

Brooke County Magistrate Robin Snyder said Brooke County has joined other areas around the nation suffering from a rise in drug addiction, particularly heroin.

She said though many don’t realize the severity of the problem, there have been about 150 drug-related deaths in the county in the last two years. She added drug addiction also is at the root of many crimes as those hooked on drugs turn to robbery and other means to support their habit.

Snyder handles drug-related misdemeanors that come before the county’s treatment court, which merged separate courts for offenders with drug problems or mental health issues or who are veterans having difficulty readjusting to civilian life.

Each was established as a pilot program by Chief Probation Officer Jim Lee, Circuit Court Judge Martin Gaughan and others in an effort to direct such individuals to counseling and away from a life of crime.

In addition to counseling at local day report centers, offenders in the drug court report daily to a probation officer, undergo random drug checks and receive medical assistance through drug treatment centers.

Snyder said the program has a 67 percent success rate, meaning that percentage of participants don’t return to crime. But aside from a lack of space at area treatment centers, a major barrier is the offenders must be willing to participate and conform with the conditions since the program is voluntary.

Those who don’t comply are returned to the criminal court system to face more traditional sentences.

Snyder said the success of drug courts in the Northern Panhandle has led Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to call for drug courts to expanded across the state from the 30 counties in which they currently operate.

But she said prevention is the real key to solving the drug problem and that should involve schools and, most of all, parents.

“They (students) need to hear from someone who’s been through it (drug addiction) and had it ruin their lives before they turned things around. Maybe they need to hear from those who are still struggling with it,” Snyder said.

Snyder added parents need to teach their children how to cope with life’s frustrations and pitfalls. They shouldn’t try to be their children’s friend and instead, provide loving but firm guidance and punishment when needed, she said.

Snyder said as a magistrate she may not discuss religion with the offenders who appear before her. But it has occurred to her that some of them would have benefited from a foundation in the values taught by church.

“I do think people need to get back to the basics and church and God. There’s a church on every block in Wellsburg. Pick one,” she said.

Held by the Wellsburg Ministerium, the service also included prayers and reflections from several area clergy. Participants included the Rev. Carl Terry of Henderon Chapel AME, the Rev. Lori Williams of Windsor Heights Church of God, Joy Leasure of Community of Christ Church of Wellsburg, the Rev. Larry Wallbrown of Apostolic Life Church of Beech Bottom, the Rev. Jerome Anderson of Manger Baptist Church of Warwood.

Music was provided by Cinda Rogerson and members of Christian Life Apostolic Church of Beech Bottom.

Earlier Thursday the Wellsburg Ministerium teamed with the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club and Mayor Sue Simonetti in presenting the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at Wellsburg United Methodist Church.

A special guest was Tom Knopp, director of the Good Samaritan Center of Kenova, W.Va. The 69-year-old Knopp has embarked on a 65-day walk through each of West Virginia’s 55 counties to raise money and awareness to curb hunger in the Mountain State.

According to the center, 17.5 percent of West Virginians live below the poverty level.

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