After a pill ring bust Monday in Ohio County, the community is even more aware of the drug epidemic in the Ohio Valley. Now, schools, companies and anti-drug organizations are banding together to stop the problem before it starts, and they are going straight to children.
Chris Herren was an NBA Basketball player when his career was cut short due to drugs, and now, he's coming to the Ohio Valley to hopefully prevent students from making the same mistakes that he did at their age. Herren had a promising NBA career, but lost everything due to his drug addiction. He is now in recovery and created the "Project Purple" initiative where he speaks to students about his life and the choices he made.
Herren will speak at Wheeling Park High School and John Marshall High School on April 23.
"He just tells his life story. I mean he just tells you what he did," said John Billie, a Paree Insurance agent. "He doesn't have to lecture you. He tells you what he did and that life story is powerful."
The drug ring arrests on Monday shocked many and reminded the community of how bad the drug problem is in the Ohio Valley. It also stressed how important it is for children especially to stay away from drugs.
"Unfortunately there are people at school and people in the community that I've come in contact with that do have these problems and that's what we're really trying to stress is that if you're addicted to drugs, that you seek help and this is exactly what project purple is doing," said Wheeling Park senior Blake Humphrey. "It's advocating for people who have drug and substance abuse addictions, to seek help."
"The earlier we get them the better," said John Marshall principal Rick Jones. "We've gotta get them when they're very impressionable at 14 to 18 and get them on the right path."
Herren has been speaking for years and at one of the first schools he spoke at, there was a small group of students sitting at the front wearing purple shirts. They thanked him for the support in being drug free. Now, hundreds of kids wear Project Purple shirts including here in the Ohio Valley where just Wheeling Park High School alone has 150 members of their drug free club.
"A lot of the athletes at Wheeling Park and John Marshall are the most vocal ones of how proud they are to be drug free and they do that by joining drug free clubs and it's really contagious," Jones said.
With West Virginia having the highest death rate from drug overdoses in the country, they hope Herren will send a strong message to the young people in the Ohio Valley.