POINT PLEASANT — “By the grace of God I am here today — I shouldn’t be.”
That statement was made by a young man who identified himself as Matt at this week’s community meeting about methamphetamine use and its effect on local communities.
Matt looked like any other young man in his 30’s — a picture of health and wearing a Cincinnati Reds baseball hat. If he hadn’t spoken up about his disease, he would’ve remained blended into the audience members sitting around him. However, he had the courage to speak up.
He said he was one-year clean and that drug addition was a disease that “never stops.” Matt talked about getting clean at the Healing Place in Huntington and how he never forgets his bottom, which was lying in detox after 18 years of drug abuse.
The meeting, organized by the Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition, was supported through a grant from the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities. Tim White, regional prevention coordinator for Prestera Center was the featured speaker.
White said in 2008 there were 50 meth labs busted in West Virginia. This year, he said as of Jan. 1, over two meth labs a day are being busted throughout the state. White talked about the difference between the meth cookers and meth addicts, saying he wanted to help the addicts and that it was possible for them to get clean from one of the most addictive drugs available. White reminded, as Matt did, that drug addiction was a disease.
Several people attending the meeting at the Trinity United Methodist Church Community Building had concerns about abandoned properties which had been condemned due to alleged meth use. These properties are located in Point Pleasant as well as out in the county. As explained by Trooper Jason Crane with the West Virginia State Police, if meth is discovered in a home, it is condemned until it is specifically cleaned to a standard determined by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, or it is torn down.
The property owners are responsible for these costs and Crane added in Kanawha County, at least some property owners are attempting to recoup some of these losses from tenants through civil suits though it’s sometimes like trying to get “blood from a turnip,” especially if that tenant is in jail. He mentioned there are also some state funds set aside to assist property owners who qualify with the cleanup of meth homes.
White urged all those with issues about those abandoned properties to contact either their county commission or city council about the properties and local ordinances. The City of Point Pleasant has discussed attempting to put a time frame on just how long properties condemned by meth making can sit without being cleaned or demolished though no action has been taken by council beyond discussion, yet.
Those working in the schools with children whom they suspect as being exposed to meth or living in homes where meth is used or produced were asked to contact child protective services, or to contact the local Prevention Resource Officers (PRO) at the closest high school, even if that child is in elementary school. Sheriff Greg Powers, who was at the meeting, said these PROs, who are also deputies with the sheriff’s department, will investigate these issues and assist school personnel in any way possible.
Powers said he receives calls everyday about drug use and activity in Mason County. He said this activity needs to be reported, and residents can call him personally with tips or tell a deputy without revealing their identity. He said, unfortunately, things move slow, and it’s one thing to know someone is dealing drugs but another to prove it. This makes gathering information, critical. Trooper Crane agreed, saying people need to build a relationship with law enforcement personnel they can trust not to reveal their sources in exchange for information which is so desperately needed to make arrests.
Also speaking at the meeting were Catherine Sayre of Prestera Center and Steven Presley of the Rural Appalachian Sobriety Project (RASP). RASP hosts Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Henderson at the old church building on the corner of Chestnut and Holloway Streets. The next RASP NA meetings are at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 25 and 7 p.m., Friday, March 1.
In addition, representatives of the Loved Ones Support Group spoke about their group which is also free and anonymous for friends and family of addicts. The group meets at 6 p.m., Thursdays at Main St. Baptist Church.
Several local health and behavioral health organizations also set up tables with information about their services at the meeting.