Panel looks at impact of drug addiction

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Elkins Police Department Chief Glenn Galloway, standing, addresses members of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Elkins and community Tuesday night during a panel discussion focusing on the local impact of teen and adult drug addiction. Panel members, from left, include Stuart Strong, Randolph County Adult Drug Court therapist; Jim Wilson, a counselor for the Randolph County Adult Drug Court and the Kenneth “Honey” Rubenstein Juvenile Center and executive director of the Gatehouse Project; Galloway; and Anthony Severino, Randolph County Adult Drug Court probation officer.

ELKINS — The GFWC Woman’s Club of Elkins hosted a panel discussion regarding the local impact of teen and adult drug addiction Tuesday night at Halliehurst on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.

Panel members included Glenn Galloway, Elkins Police Department chief; Anthony Severino, Randolph County Adult Drug Court probation officer; Stuart Strong, Randolph County Adult Drug Court therapist; and Jim Wilson, a counselor for the Randolph County Adult Drug Court and the Kenneth “Honey” Rubenstein Juvenile Center and executive director of the Gatehouse Project.

Participants described their roles in the community, answered questions, suggested solutions and provided public involvement opportunities concerning teen and adult drug addiction in the Elkins community.

Severino spoke about the adult drug court program, explaining participants must check in at 8 a.m. every morning, Monday through Friday; are required to check in by phone between 6 and 8 p.m. every evening; and successfully complete of 40 hours of community service, employment, or a combination of both, each week.

He added the program is typically a requirement of being placed on probation and terms can run anywhere from 18 months to two years, but are required to be a minimum of one year.

“We want to get (participants) back into the community and put faith back into an everyday lifestyle,” he said. “On top of that, they are required to meet weekly with our substance abuse counselor, they must complete weekly substance abuse courses and services, and they have weekly drug court hearings in front of the circuit court judge David Wilmoth, who is also the presiding drug court judge.

“It’s our hopes that we can add structure and support into their lives because, a lot of times, these individuals have never had structure and support,” he continued. “On top of that, the education they receive from their services from our substance abuse counselor — again, it’s just our hope that they can learn and get on the right path to live a crime-free lifestyle and to be a productive member of society.”

Galloway was the second to speak and said Elkins Police Department is the only 24/7 force in Randolph County,- consisting of 13 officers, with one on active military duty.

He also gave a rundown of recent drug busts in the area, including one of the largest in the county’s history which led to the seizure of 54 grams of methamphetamine.

While drugs are a major concern for the Elkins Police Department, Galloway notes he believes a proactive approach is what is necessary to curbing what he referred to as an “epidemic.”

“Some current concerns with Elkins PD are drugs and crimes that are associated with drugs. We realize as a police department we will never arrest our way out of the drug epidemic and that is why we need to get with resources and join with them on their missions in educating the public,” he said. “We need to be proactive to keep people off of drugs in the first place.”

Wilson, who described himself as a “recovering guy” who, through treatment in Cincinnati, Ohio, became sober on March 7, 1988, said he believes the drug issue is not a moral problem but instead a disease.

“The one thing that I really appreciated hearing the chief talking about was the fact that you can’t arrest your way out of this problem. It is nice to have some people who have an understanding, and have some compassion and some empathy for the fact that what we’re dealing with is not a moral issue — it looks like one sometimes, but it’s really not,” Wilson said.

“What we are really dealing with is a disease and a disease that is the same whether it’s in Elkins, West Virginia, whether it’s in Brooklyn, New York, whether it’s in San Diego, California, or whether it’s all the way across the world. Addiction is a disease and it’s the same everywhere you go. There are probably forums just like this happening all over the country where people are talking about the exact same problem.”

Strong, who previously worked as a therapist through the West Virginia Department of Corrections and retired from the field in July 2017, said he was optimistic seeing people in the crowd attempting to learn more about addiction and cited a comment from earlier in the discussion about how addiction affects more people than just the addict.

“I’m optimistic that you’re here, that you’re bringing an open mind to (addiction) and you have an opportunity to learn and maybe look at it in a broader perspective,” he said. “I think, sort of like what was said earlier, most addicts touch at least seven other people, so if there are 10 people in the drug court program and they all touch seven people — then if we help those 10, we’ve helped 70.”

The panelists also engaged in open dialogue with those in the audience who had questions or comments on a variety of topics including concerns about crime activity in certain areas of town, neighborhood watch programs, programs to combat juvenile drug use and more.