The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 18, 2014

‘Balance concern with hope’ in battle against substance abuse

CLARKSBURG — “What I want you to focus on are the solutions,” Kathy Paxton said.

Paxton, director of Substance Abuse Services of the State of West Virginia, told participants at the Governor’s Substance Abuse Regional Task Force Region 4 meeting on Tuesday to talk with one another about solutions to treating, preventing and using recovery methods surrounding substance abuse in the state.

“Balance concern with hope,” she told participants.

Participants in the meeting came from 13 counties in Region 4, including Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Doddridge, Harrison, Taylor, Barbour, Tucker, Gilmer, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Braxton. The meeting was a part of round 13 of the task force meetings throughout the state.

“The state is divided into six regions, and we’ve traveled to each of the regions 13 times since 2012,” Paxton said.

Having these meeting allows those in the community, whether they are residents, educators, doctors or someone who works with those battling substance abuse, come together and work toward fighting against the problem.

At these meetings, participants voice their concerns, solutions and plans on how to prevent and treat substance abuse. Paxton said she will then take the concerns, solutions and plans of these participants and pass them along to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s advisory council.

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

Paxton said there are different issues surrounding substance abuse in every region and county. Having these meetings in each region helps identify the problems.

“The resources and the gaps that you have are different than in another region,” she said. “Not only does it identify those needs but really addresses what you have and don’t have in this region.”

These meetings also bring people together where they can share their methods with one another.

During the meeting, the participants were separated into groups where they identified a goal and described whether it was a perception or reality. They also were able to talk with one another about the problems they are seeing in their counties.

Travis Zimmerman, with the Marion County Adult Drug Court, said attending these meetings has helped with networking and finding solutions and services that can help better Marion County’s fight against substance abuse.

“We network really well with the state, public entities and private entities here,” he said.

Providing services to treat, prevent and help those recovering from substance abuse is something Zimmerman found that not all counties are able to do. He said there is a difference between rural and urban counties and the services they provide for substance abusers.

Zimmerman said in some counties services to treat individuals dealing with substance abuse just don’t exist, and in other counties there’s an abundance of 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.”

Along with Zimmerman, Paxton said providing services for substance abusers is key, and it needs to happen in the state. She said there’s a problem of navigating substance abusers to the services provided in West Virginia.

“We have more parents that put their kids in out-of-state places then the State of West Virginia does,” Paxton said.

Paxton said there has been a decrease in prescription medication abuse in West Virginia, but she has seen an increase in other drug abuse such as heroin.

“If you make things not available or accessible, often folks will jump to another substance,” she said. “We have to do a good job in doing this work.”

The Governor’s Substance Abuse Regional Task Force meetings will continue this week in Region 5 in Huntington and Region 6 in Beckley.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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