Huntington’s drug problem is multifaceted. Drug trafficking organizations from large Midwest cities are an external threat. Internally, a significant portion of our population struggles with drug addiction. Just as the drug problem involves many layers, so, too, does the solution.
The Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (MODCP) was established by Mayor Steve Williams in November 2014 to address drug addiction in Huntington and surrounding communities and create a holistic approach involving prevention, treatment and law enforcement. This strategy was born out of the recognition that drug use is not only a criminal justice problem, but also a public health and economic problem.
The mission of the MODCP is to serve as a leader for improving the health and safety of individuals by promoting strategic initiatives and collaboration to reduce drug trafficking and related crime while promoting prevention and treatment options for addicts.
The Office’s director is Jim Johnson, a retired Huntington Police officer of 29 years. Johnson also has served as the constituent services liaison in the Mayor’s Office and as interim police chief for six months in 2014. Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, who also has years of experience as a registered nurse, and Scott Lemley, the director of Development and Planning for the City of Huntington, also work under the MODCP.
Goal: To prevent initial drug use and mitigate the public health risks associated with the opioid crisis.
Problem: The youngest overdose victim in Cabell County in 2016 was 11 years old. West Virginia ranks first in the nation in hepatitis B incidence and second in hepatitis C incidence. The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome in Cabell County is 10 times higher than the national average.
Key Efforts: Since 2014, the MODCP has worked with key stakeholders to develop prevention programs for youth, provide educational resources for parents, and promote the area's Harm Reduction Program. It plans to build on existing efforts by expanding youth programs and community outreach and promoting the creation of a primary prevention program for women.
Goal: To increase the menu of options for treatment and recovery and improve coordination between key stakeholders.
Problem: The demand for treatment far exceeds supply, and few of the existing facilities serve women and children. While key stakeholders have increasingly collaborated, they still largely operate in silos.
Key Efforts: The MODCP has worked to espand existing treatment services, create transitional housing, and develop long-term outpatient services. It plans to expand access to medication-assisted treatment, establish treatment programs for women and children with NAS, create a regional hub where individuals struggling with addiction can receive assessments and referrals to treatment, and build a smart community that integrates the data from key stakeholders into a centralized information system.
Goal: To improve law enforcement's ability to target and address drug trafficking and divert people struggling with addiction into treatment and recovery.
Problem: The Huntington area is the epicenter for drug distribution in the Tri-State. While efforts are needed to reduce the drug supply, imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders and responding to overdoses are costly.
Key Efforts: The MODCP has advocated for laws to held reduce drug trafficking and created programs to divert nonviolent drug offenders and overdose victims into treatment, including a pre-booking diversion program and drug court for female prostitutes. Within the next two years, the MODCP plans to further improve its efforts by adopting the Drug Enforcement Agency's 360 strategy for addressing the opioid crisis.