Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON — In a recent town hall forum held by the STOP Coalition, one of the issues discussed was the announcement that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has refused to tap into the state’s rainy day fund for money to fight the state’s drug problem.
The town hall meeting brought together members of the community with STOP, an anti-drug coalition based in Gilbert.
Among those attending the meeting was Mingo County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith. Smith said the county has to spend a large amount of its budget on costs related to drugs.
“We operate the county on a budget of about $7 million a year,” Smith said. “Between one and two million of that goes toward jail costs. And I would estimate that 90 to 95 percent of those inmates are there due to drugs, one way or another.”
The Governor appointed the Advisory Council on Substance Abuse in 2011, made up of members of the medical community, public agencies, community leaders and others, who released their report in January.
The report had nine recommendations, including two aimed at building treatment centers for some 150,000 addicts. The experts said raising cigarette taxes could create revenue for prevention or recovery programs.
The council also recommended: giving local police more power to enforce alcohol control laws; reducing the flow of paper money to welfare recipients through debit cards; finding alternatives to driver’s license revocation for people who don’t pay fines so they can remain employed; and measuring the outcomes of state-funded drug treatment programs.
Spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin says the governor has already put $7.5 million into substance abuse treatment programs.
STOP Assistant Director Joshua Murphy said the Governor has made strides, but with eight percent of the state’s population with a substance abuse problem, help is needed immediately.
“Gov. Tomblin has done an excellent job,” Murphy said. “With the bill he passed last year, but at the same time, one in twelve people in the state, we need help now.”
“It is time for our state legislatures to act,” Commissioner Smith said. “We have closed schools right here in the county we could use for rehab facilities. The best way to address the problem is rehabilitation. I am heartbroken that Tomblin won’t use any of our rainy day fund on these facilities.”
“This is a rainy day fund,” Josh Murphy said. “Well, look out the window. Its raining now.”