The Times West Virginian

June 19, 2014

Concerned citizens seeking solutions critical in dealing with substance abuse

Times West Virginian

— Solutions.

Sometimes they’re easy. We learn at a young age that two plus two equals four. We know that the way to lose weight is through exercise and healthy eating.

But sometimes, solutions can be a little trickier.

And that’s what participants in the Governor’s Substance Abuse Regional Task Force meeting focused on when they met earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Kathy Paxton, who serves as the director of Substance Abuse Services of the State of West Virginia, encouraged the group gathered at the meeting to talk about the solutions for treating, preventing and using recovery methods surrounding substance abuse in the state.

The participants came from 13 counties — Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Doddridge, Harrison, Taylor, Barbour, Tucker, Gilmer, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Braxton — and the meeting was part of a series of task force meetings around the state.

Statewide, the meetings allow residents, educators, doctors or individuals who work with people battling substance abuse to gather in a central location and work toward fighting the problem. The meetings also serve as a way to let participants voice their concerns and plans about preventing and treating substance abuse, and those ideas are then passed along to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s advisory council.

In other words? They’re working toward solutions.

And their work has already seen some success, as Paxton explained.

“It’s resulted in some pretty significant substance abuse legislation and additional funding for treatment,” she said.

And while Paxton said there has been a decrease in prescription medication abuse in West Virginia, she said other drugs, such as heroin, are on the rise. She said limiting access to one drug can cause people to begin using another substance, and it’s crucial to connect those individuals with programs designed to help them.

That’s just one possible solution to the spiraling substance abuse problem that can be found around the state. As Travis Zimmerman, with the Marion County Adult Drug Court, pointed out, some counties don’t have access to services that treat individuals dealing with substance abuse. In other counties, there’s an abundance of those services.

“It’s always something we worry about when we’re talking about implementing a service,” he said. “It’s easy to implement some of these services in the urban counties, but it’s so difficult in some of these rural counties.”

Providing services for individuals dealing with substance abuse is a key step in treatment and prevention, and it’s another solution when it comes to solving the issue of substance abuse in West Virginia.

But so are meetings like the one organized Tuesday. While they might serve as one of the first steps toward solving the problem, these meetings are important because they prove that there are concerned citizens in this state who are eager to help their fellow West Virginians overcome issues with substance abuse.

Together, we can all be part of the solution.