Wyoming County Prosecuting Attorney Rick Staton was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to the newly-created Statewide Substance Abuse Advisory Council. The Governor announced the creation of the Council and Statons appointment by an Executive Order and press conference on September 6, 2011. The Council is comprised of health care professionals, faith-based organizations, behavioral health personnel, law enforcement representatives, and citizens.
The Advisory Council will have a unique dual approach to gathering information and formulating solutions. Regional meetings are scheduled around the state. All citizens are invited to the meetings to make presentations and brainstorm ideas for combating the epidemic of drug abuse. The regional meeting for this area will be Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at FMRS Health Systems, 101 Eisenhower Drive, Beckley, West Virginia.
After all the regional meetings are completed, the Statewide Council will meet to review the input from the regional meetings, formulate options, make a formal report with suggestions to the Governor.
Staton praised Governor Tomblin for his creation of the Council. Other states have used this approach and are seeing success in developing comprehensive solutions that do not work at cross-purposes, he said. It is important that everyone involved in this crisis have a voice in the process and a stake in implementing the solutions. Governor Tomblin realizes the seriousness and complexity of this issue, and his bold action is a compliment to his taking the lead in searching for solutions.
While Im honored Governor Tomblin chose me to be a part of this important mission, I recognize it is a daunting task that needs immediate attention, Staton said in response to his appointment. We are losing a generation of young people to substance abuse. We have to act quickly, comprehensively and thoroughly. No one solution will solve this problem. I am excited and open-minded about the input and suggestions from the public, including people who work with this problem, and the persons and families who have suffered because of it. I hope they will attend the meetings and participate.
Wyoming County alone is averaging two overdose deaths per month from substance abuse. Most of the victims are in their twenties.
Staton says the solutions are not going to be quick, easy nor cheap. Anything we do is going to require an investment of millions of dollars in treatment, law enforcement, education, and retraining. We need to be prepared for that. We need to act with the same intensity with which we responded to the AIDS epidemic. This is a crisis of epic proportions. It affects every household, whether directly or indirectly. I dont know all the solutions or recommendations we will propose, but I do know we have to act now.