POINT PLEASANT — In November of last year, there were 10 babies born at Pleasant Valley Hospital and six of those 10 were born addicted to some kind of drug.
That statistic came to light at the recent Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition meeting which featured not only speakers from the local community but neighbors from the Healing Place Treatment Center and Loved Ones Support Group in Huntington.
Tim White, who works with Mason County as region two prevention coordinator for Prestera, said there are 275 beds in West Virginia for the 19,000 people who need them for substance abuse recovery. He told the group West Virginians have an average of 18.5 prescriptions each - the national average is 12. White also spoke about success stories in Huntington’s drug war, including the opening of the Healing Place, which utilizes a 12-step program philosophy and provides a long-term residential program of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. The non-medical detox and residential recovery program is provided cost free to the individual alcoholic/addict. The residents contribute to their room and board in other ways- such as providing services in food preparation, housekeeping, building and grounds maintenance, security, peer-mentoring, teaching, etc. White and others spoke about the need for a recovery center in Mason County, speaking about faith-based programs which churches are becoming involved with in other areas across the region.
After speaking about the Healing Place, White said what many in the room already knew - drugs and substance abuse know no boundaries. He then introduced a recovering addict from the Healing Place, Jason Martin of Hurricane, who looked more like a church deacon than any junkie stereotype. Martin spoke about having a wonderful family, a college education and a career in the funeral industry but he said on the inside, he had felt like a “dressed up trash can.” Martin spoke about his first high from alcohol and then becoming addicted to pain pills, specifically talking about Lortabs. He said getting drunk or high allowed him to feel “normal” for the first time in his life. He talked about being “spiritually bankrupt” after hiding his addiction, lying to his family and stealing form his workplace. He spoke about being at rock bottom last July when he entered the Healing Place and how it helped him turn his life around.
Another parent, Cary Dixon from the Loved Ones Support Group, spoke about her 24-year old son who started his drug use with marijuana, progressed into hard drugs and has overdosed multiple times. Dixon told the group her son is a “wonderful young man” and addicts “aren’t bad people” but are “sick people trying to be well.” She said she and her husband were desperate for help when they found the Loved Ones Support Group which meets at 6 p.m., every Tuesday at the Barnett Center at 1524 10th Ave. in Huntington. Dixon said families need help as well as addicts because having family members dealing with addiction is like a being on a roller coaster, explaining “until someone gets off, everyone is going down.”
Dixon, who is a facilitator of the group, said the Loved Ones Support Group is willing to start its own chapter in Mason County if interest is high enough. Dixon can be reached at 304-633-9632.
The need is most certainly there, particularly in Mason County. Officers from Mason County Day Report spoke about addicts showing up at their office daily, begging for help and those officers having to beg to find to find them a bed, if it can be found at all. Officers report they have to send local people to Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pa. Two days last week, five people showed up at day report, asking for help, but despite the officers’ efforts, help could only be found for one person - proving resources for addicts are severely limited, and desperately needed, in West Virgina.
Voices then began to rise from around the room as residents of Mason County filled the meeting with stories about their own addiction or a son or daughter who was an addict, parents spoke of their desires to help and a realization everyone has their own rock bottom. A man from Mason County spoke about his son who is currently in the Healing Place program, explaining his son went in only after he let him hit rock bottom. Despite wanting to help, many parents echoed a sentiment (and determination) about not loving their children to death.
Lauri Johnson, coordinator with the Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition said it’s one thing to see drug addiction on television or read about it in the newspaper - it’s an entirely different thing to walk that walk.
The next Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition meeting is set for March 15.