Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin is clearly following through on his campaign pledge to make Gallia an unhealthy place for drug dealers to do business. Within a 24-hour period on Jan. 17, sheriff’s deputies mounted a raid on an alleged trafficking site, and then on a suspected meth lab. These incidents, along with two earlier searches at different locations, have occurred nearly three weeks since Champlin took office. Such action, resulting in arrests and seizure of drugs and cash, is welcome news to a public that has become well aware of the influence and impact of drug addiction within its walls, and the level of crime it inspires. The moves go a long way toward making the community feel safer, in addition to getting illegal drugs and profits out of the wrong hands.
Yet to those citizens who regularly see what addiction does to someone they know and care about, the raids conducted by the new sheriff, as well as those conducted by his predecessors and the joint drug task force serving the area, are an all-too-familiar result of an ongoing social problem. It’s also eye-opening evidence to the amount of illegal activity there appears to be in our midst. Okay, this may be not news to many of you, but the swift response of local authorities is a result of the public’s growing desire to take hold of this problem and make it significantly less the risk to life and property that it has become. Arrest and prosecution are a big part of the solution.
Eradicating the drug problem in the tri-county area is no easy task for police and prosecutors given the resources at hand. The job they do to make drugs less accessible is time-consuming at best and dangerous at its worst when coping with criminals, some of whom are well-organized, armed and financed traffickers from Detroit and elsewhere. Therefore, public support of local efforts to drive away this element is vital by providing officers with as much useful information as possible on their activities. Requests for such tips from Champlin and other police agencies isn’t just a piece of boilerplate in the news releases they issue. They need your help desperately.
But just as desperate are the victims of addiction seeking to escape its bondage. Without being too platitudinous, those willing to shrug off their habit for good must have the faith, inner strength and support of other folks that are a part of reaching the goal of clean living. Minimizing the depressing effects of factors leading to addiction — insecurity, loneliness, unemployment, hopelessness — are also key to recovery. This is where the work of therapists, counselors and mental health professionals are critical. These resources are in place locally and nearby, work well and are busy with court referrals.
But what happens after treatment is over makes all the more necessary a halfway house, a residential center for recovering addicts to transition back into society free of drugs and chemical dependency. Such an idea was proposed for Gallipolis in 2003 but didn’t take off, even as awareness grew of painkiller addiction and how widespread it had become in Appalachia. Around the same time, a quick series of armed robberies in and around Gallipolis were the result of suspected opiate abuse. Passage of time and a higher crime rate attributable to the grip of addiction may prompt some reassessment of this proposal if the community’s desire to squelch drug usage and its effects is as great as it appears.
Removing the product fueling addiction is one thing, but salvaging someone from an overpowering need is another matter that communities must address. It all takes money, of course, and lack of same on the local level makes it incumbent on our legislators and budget experts to find the resources to help treat addicts as well as put away the criminals. Breaking up drug operations is a message voters sent to leadership a few months ago and locally, we’re now seeing an answer to that concern. But we also have to think about addiction’s victims and what can be done to make their recovery a permanent condition.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing Co. for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.