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 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 Office of Drug Control Policy 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 Department Capt. Jan Rader, who also is a registered nurse at Cabell Huntington Hospital, and Scott Lemley, a criminal intelligence analyst for the Huntington Police Department, also work under the Office of Drug Control Policy.
Immediately following the formation of the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, it began meeting with agencies and individuals that are on the front lines of addiction. Through these partnerships, the following short-and long-term strategies have been identified:
The LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) Program is a pre-booking diversion program that allows law enforcement to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drugs or prostitution activity to treatment services instead of jail and prosecution. It is designed for addicts to kick their habits and give those who survive by selling drugs an opportunity at legitimate employment.
The program is based on successful arrest referral programs that have been operating in the United Kingdom for several years. Seattle, Wash., was the first city in the United States to implement the program.
Locally, the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy and the Huntington Police Department have formed a partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Prestera Center and the Day Report Center to establish the LEAD Program. Prestera will provide mental health counselors to evaluate potential clients.
The Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy has partnered with West Virginia State University, Michigan State University, the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership and United Way of the River Cities to develop an innovative and potentially replicable early-warning strategy focused on local trends.
Work began on the project in February 2015 and is expected to continue through the summer. The team will then select and implement a community intervention strategy.
The project is funded by a Community Assessment and Education to Promote Behavioral Health Planning and Evaluation (CAPE) Project Phase II grant in the amount of $149,480. The grant is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Cabell County was one of only four areas in the country to receive such funding.
The goal of a Harm Reduction Program is to prevent people from causing irreversible damage to themselves and others. The program will be located at and run by the Cabell-Huntington-Health Department and will be the first of its kind in West Virginia. It is expected to launch late summer or early fall of this year.
The program will consist of:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy and Trifecta Productions are partnering to develop a mobile phone application that will assist first responders, health care providers and the public in locating treatment options. The system is scheduled for testing during the summer of 2015.
With the Bureau for Justice Assistance and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration resources, the Cabell County Adult Drug Court has applied for a grant to launch the Women’s Empowerment and Addiction Recovery (WEAR) Program, which will be a specialized track within the current drug court that will expand services to address the needs of drug-addicted prostitutes.
The participants will go through the standard drug court model, but will also receive specialized such as counseling and therapy to address their mental and physical health issues. The program will provide an alternative criminal justice approach to prostitution to help shift the response away from punishment and state prison sentences to that of a treatment and social service model that understands the victimization and needs of women in the sex trade.
Cabell County Drug Court’s current capacity is 40 participants per year. With BJA/SAMHSA support, an additional full-time adult drug court probation officer will allow the drug court to provide services for 20 participants in the WEAR Program per year. Over the three year project period, Cabell County Adult Drug Court will provide specialized services to up to 60 unduplicated individuals.