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MHS Drug Incident Stirs Up Concern

By Staff | Nov 18, 2009

On Friday at Magnolia High School approximately five students were involved in a series of transactions involving prescription medication, confirmed Prosecutor Timothy Haught. As a result, at least one student who ingested the medication was taken to Wetzel County Hospital. “To my knowledge that student is now home and there is no continuing hospitalization,” said Haught.

There was concern about another student’s medical condition and the others involved were checked medically as a precaution.

Haught expects there to be disciplinary action by the school to all involved. There will possibly be expulsion hearings and possibly juvenile criminal charges.

“One of the problems is that the potential discipline is determined by the schedule of the drug involved,” said Haught. “We have to confirm exactly what drug was involved.”

He said one student brought the pills to school. She then gave them to another student who gave them to some other students. Each person involved in delivery will face disciplinary action. Haught said there was no money involved in any of the transactions.

“They (parents) need to teach their kids not to take any medication that’s not prescribed to them,” said Haught. “We need to teach our kids to stand up to peer pressure. Law enforcement is trying to do something about this. What we really need is for people to become part of the solution-to really step forward and work in solving it. What we really need here is some action.”

Perhaps that is exactly what will come out of the previously scheduled November meeting of the Citizens Against Prescription Drug Abuse (CAPDA) held at the New Martinsville City Building Monday evening. Approximately 55 concerned citizens packed the council chambers for the meeting. The group was started by New Martinsville Mayor Lucille Blum and Wetzel County Board of Education Member Willie Baker over a year ago, but has found little support from the community at large.

This month’s meeting was facilitated by Beth Glow of the Wetzel County Center for Children and Families and Wetzel County’s West Virginia University Extension Agent Mindy Mall.

Obviously pleased with the turnout, Glow said, “I hope you all continue to come.”

When she asked the crowd why they were at the meeting, Cindy Culley said, “Four overdoses in one week is a little bit much for our county.”

“I have grandchildren and I’d like to keep them,” said Doris Fannin.

“There’s no place for anyone to get help around here; there’s nothing,” said another voice from the crowd.

“Our laws do not hold people in and force treatment,” confirmed Glow, who also noted there is no rehabilitation offered to those in West Virginia prisons. “Unfortunately it took something such as this week to happen (to get people aware and interested).”

Each attendee was provided with a folder containing a list of drugs, their street names, description, and effects. It also included many statistics on how Wetzel County’s drug use and attitudes compare to the state. For instance Wetzel County has more youth reporting illicit drug use of uppers, downers, hallucinogens, ecstasy, oxycontin, cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco than the state average.

Glow explained that statistics are very important because it is nearly impossible to get grant funding for anti-drug programs unless there are statistics to back up the need. While there are some statistics available, Glow said unfortunately there are counties with even higher drug use numbers and they usually get the grant money.

Mall suggested those concerned need to let politicians know the public’s concerns. Call, e-mail, and write letters to tell them you are serious about fighting drugs in Wetzel County. In fact, she wrote the Wetzel County Commission’s mailing and e-mail addresses on a flip chart: Wetzel County Commission, P. O. Box 156, New Martinsville, WV 26155, and wetzelcoclk@hotmail.com.

The county could be instrumental in providing funding for another Prevention Resource Officer or School Resource Officer. The county already has one at Valley High School that is partially funded by a grant the remainder is split by the commission and Wetzel County Board of Education.

State politicians such as Sen. Larry Edgell, Sen. Jeff Kessler, and Del. Dave Pethtel should be contacted for issues such as changing laws that will provide more drug rehabilitation, said Mall.

“West Virginia needs better programs,” said Sheriff James Hoskins. He added that parents don’t set rules and if so, they’re not enforced.

Glow cautioned parents in attendance that children learn by example. “If you don’t enforce the bicycle helmet law or seat belt law, you are saying laws don’t matter,” emphasized Glow.

Resident Diane Strippel asked if the county is using the resources it already has efficiently to stop the flow of drugs.

Hoskins explained that there are a total of 26 law enforcement officials (state, county, municipal) in the county.

That means there could be five to eight on duty at any time. “That kind of limits our ability to do any major drug interdiction,” he said.

Further, he said his office spends a lot of time on mental hygiene cases. They require two officers at a time to transport a person in need to an approved facility. “There have been times that I don’t have an officer in this county,” said Hoskins.

Sgt. Steve Kastigar of the New Martinsville Police Department said his department has eight road officers, a detective, and a chief. “We are actively trying to do some drug interdiction,” said Kastigar.

Just recently the police committee of the New Martinsville City Council approved the dedication of a minimum of $5,000 to fighting drugs. This money comes from the regular police budget through a change in allocation thanks to some grant funding in other areas.

However, Kastigar added, “We’re eight guys and everybody knows who we are.” That recognition can make drug cases difficult to investigate and arrest.

“Education is going to be your biggest help,” offered Kastigar.

While the meeting involved many concerns and ideas, Glow said, “We need to take some action. We need to do something about it.”

Sign up sheets for three different areas of work to fight the battle against drugs were started and those in attendance provided their names and contact information in the area that interested them or where they thought they could be of the most use.

The next meeting of the CAPDA is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at the New Martinsville City Building. Even more concerned residents are encouraged to attend the meeting and get involved in the fight against drugs in Wetzel County.