Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON — Josh Murphy, assistant director of the STOP Coalition, moderated the first in a series of town hall meetings to be held throughout Mingo County to address different issues surrounding drug abuse.
The subject of the first meeting, held in the Williamson City Hall, was prescription drug abuse. Several members of the community were present to exchange ideas and comments, as well as residents of Crossroads, a residential drug treatment facility in GIlbert for women that is run by STOP.
Sister Janet Peterworth with Christian Help in Kermit, began the meeting on a positive note.
“I think we need to talk about what’s going right instead of just always focusing on the negative,” she said. “I for one am impressed with the amount of drug busts the sheriff has made. It gets more to the root of the problem, the people who make money on the vulnerability of others. I feel good about that.”
She also praised the Mingo County Board of Education for pursuing a drug testing policy for students who participate in extracurricular activities. Murphy said data shows the number of minors taking drugs is dropping.
“I think it’s because kids have less access (to prescription drugs),” Murphy said.
Among the exchange of ideas presented at the meeting was using legislation to try to slow the flow of prescriptions written. An ordinance that would ensure medical practices are legitimate, as opposed to “pill mills”, has been passed in Ohio.
Similar ordinances require those offices that prescribe a certain amount of painkillers be designated as “pain management” facilities, and requirements such as a city-issued, annual pain management clinic license, hospital affiliation for doctors and background checks.
Some of the women currently undergoing treatment at Crossroads say that while law enforcement has a part to play in the fight against drugs, incarcerating addicts is not the answer.
“I have been in jail, and while it was an eye opener, I stayed high in jail just as much as I did on the street,” she said.
Another Crossroads resident said addressing the issue with children was the key.
“It was fun when I started using,” she said. “If I had been educated as a child, maybe I wouldn’t be here now.”
Michael Perry, who manages City Gym in Williamson, also attended the meeting. City Gym is located adjacent to the medical offices which were shut down in 2009 and had been referred to as a “pill mill.”
Perry said the offices have since reopened, and that the traffic of people seeking prescriptions for pain medication are a deterrent to his business.
Perry said the culture of drug abuse has infected the community.
“We have a lawyer-based economy, we have grandparents raising children,” he said. “I have had to drag black children out of horrible situations. They say poor black people hate each other, but it’s the situation - it’s bad.”
He said the city is gaining a reputation for drugs and the problems that accompany drug abuse.
“People are throwing rubbers and needles away near my gym,” he said. “People are walking around like zombies. Williamson is becoming known for prostitutes. Kids and old people should be talking to each other at the post office, not the whores that are there.”
Perry said there is public money available to help fight the scourge of prescription drug abuse.
“We are ripe for all kinds of grants,” he said. “Why are these people here? We need a plan of action to get rid of these people.”
But residents of Crossroads, who are recovering from drug abuse, say that instead of ostracizing those who are in the cycle of drug abuse, offering an alternative life is the key.
“I hear you talking about these people, and I realize I was one of them. But instead of looking at these people and saying, ‘eww’ why not help them? Sometimes no one has ever told them they have any worth, can’t we reach out to them?”