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Experts: Community must help heal addiction

COLUMBUS — Healing an area damaged by drug addiction will take a collaborative effort.

That was the message from the newly instituted addiction work session at this year’s Legislative Day sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

This was the 30th year for the chamber to host sessions and luncheons where economic development leaders, high school students and legislators get together to learn the needs of Lawrence County.

“Drug addiction knows no boundaries,” Jan Rader, deputy Huntington fire chief and nurse, told the session. “I treat a lot of residents of Lawrence County.”

Last year there were 944 overdoses in Cabell County. Of those 70 were fatal.

“A lot of those were from Lawrence County,” she said.

A special program started in Cabell County has already had an impact. Starting out as a needle exchange program, it offers a variety of services.

“We educate them,” Rader said. “We vaccinate them.”

Keeping certain candidates out of the court system is the mission of a new diversionary program, a collaboration between the county prosecutor and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

“We catch folks at that point in their lives where we can turn them,” D.R. Gossett, executive director of the CAO, said. “We can set them in a different life concept, different peer concept. Addiction is 90 percent of what is driving the court system.”

Individuals arrested for non-violent crimes can receive behavioral services and find ways to gain employment.

In 2001 there were eight counties in the state with high opiate addiction statistics.

In 2012 that figure reached 100 percent of the state, Ed Hughes, CEO of Compass Community Health, said.

“It is an economic development issue,” he said.

Approaches must be created to reduce the stigma of addiction and engage families.

“How can we take our services to the next level,” Hughes said.