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Monday, October 22, 2018 Clarksburg City Officials hosted their second meeting in a series of gatherings that brings various stakeholders together to discuss homelessness, the transient population, and the drug problem that is plaguing the region and specifically to discuss issues with Clarksburg and surrounding areas. Additional stakeholders were in attendance for Monday’s meeting. The discussion was moderated by Mark McMillion of McMillion Leadership Associates.
The discussion was opened up with statistics provided by both the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department’s analytical team and State based resources. The Sheriff’s Dept., provided that 60% of Harrison County’s narcotics based calls were from Clarksburg. The statistics that were provided indicated that deaths by overdose have decreased or plateaued for Harrison County in recent years, while in the entire State, there were 1,000 overdose deaths reported. But, as Jim Harris, from Health Access Inc., pointed out, “those are only the people who make it into the statistic, there are plenty of deaths that are ruled as suicide, but really should be considered an overdose.”
Senator Michael Romano expressed the faults of the opioid producing pharmaceutical companies, and the key role they have played on our state’s drug crisis. Michael went on to explain how our state’s Attorney General has failed the state’s people when he settled a state lawsuit with drug companies for measly 48 million dollars, when it should have been a significant amount more.
Stakeholders came to a general consensus the issues that are troubling the City are especially rampant due to the vital services located in Clarksburg for the transient population, those who are homeless or drug users. Clarksburg holds the county seat, which lays claim to the Courthouse, the Harrison-Clarksburg County Health Dept. HCHD, and the DHHR, but also houses the Clarksburg Mission, and Centra. A concern for stakeholders was the “Harm Reduction Program” that takes place on Thursdays at the Harrison County Health Dept., which prompted Harrison County Health Dept. Administrator, Chad Bundy, to give an explanation of the program, which helped stakeholders better understand the services that are provided at the HCHD.
Bundy went on to say that, the state felt that the best place for a Harm Reduction Program Lies within the Health Department, which led to HCHD’s administration to study the best practices for adopting the program in Cabell County and took part in a national training for the Harm Reduction Program. The HCHD runs their program more conservatively compared to other programs which allows participants to remain anonymous. The HCHD requires an ID for those who would like to take part in the Harm Reduction Program, and registers all participants as patients. By registering their patients it allows the staff to form a relationship with participants, which leads to better evaluation. Since the beginning of the program it has seen a drastic decline in Hepatitis B and acute Hepatitis. 85% of the program’s patients have reported being from Harrison County, while 60% are from the Clarksburg zip code, which includes Summit Park, Nutter Fort, Stonewood, and Dawmont. The program allows users to be as “healthy” as possible until they are ready for recovery.
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) was dicussed as an additional channel that could be used to combat drug addiction and use in the area. LEAD is being utilized in various parts of West Virginia as a diversionary plan for drug users and prostitution to address the root of the issue. Which led to Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney, Rachel Romano, explain the procedures her office takes for non-violent offenders using diversion plans to address the root of the problem. When prosecuting cases, the prosecutor’s office utilizes the resources that are available, such as; Drug Court, home incarceration, rehab and recovery, before sentencing offenders to jail time.
Prosecutor Romano also went on to address the lack of laws on vagrancy, explaining that the vagrancy laws that are written are considered to be ineffective, as they are written too vaguely and contain some aspect of discrimination which is against the Constitution.
This informative meeting with additional stakeholders led to a better clarification of programs and resources that are available for those in need and that are used to combat the drug problem, a more thorough breakdown of laws, and statistical data that is showing overdose deaths are not on the rise. An additional stakeholder meeting is going to be held in the near future. Stakeholders were asked to provide a method or strategy that has worked for their organization in combating these various issues, and a proposal for what they believe can assist to reduce the problem.
Organizations in attendance for the stakeholders meeting held on October 22, 2018 were officials from: Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe, Assistant City Manager Anthony Bellotte, Clarksburg Mayor Cathy Goings Clarksburg Vice Mayor Jim Malfregeot, Clarksburg Police Dept. Chief Robert Hillard and Deputy Chief Jason Snider, Prosecuting Attorney Rachel Romano, Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny, Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.’s Analytical Team, Clarksburg Community Action, INSYNC Drug Awareness, the Clarksburg Mission, Harrison County Health Dept., Centra, Health Access, Harrison County Administrator, Willie Parker, Celebrate Recovery, UHC, Christ Episcopal Church, House of Delegate Ben Queen, Senator Michael Romano, Clarksburg-Harrison Regional Housing Authority, United Summit Center, Veteran’s Affair’s Medical Center, Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, Village Square Conference Center, and the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library.