State leaders gathered at Wheeling Jesuit University Wednesday to discuss the drug epidemic–an issue that former United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld, II says is not getting better, but worse.
“We have not peaked. The problem has not peaked. Unfortunately we’re still headed upwards, and we haven’t leveled off to come back down. Because of all the synthetic opioids that we’re seeing out there on the street, the problem has actually gotten worse. We’ve got to fight even harder than ever if we’re going to make a difference,” said Ihlenfeld.
There are several different ideas about how to tackle the drug crisis which is why the 2017 West Virginia Opioid and Substance Abuse Seminar was held: so leaders in different communities can share their ideas and strategies.
“Nobody is immune from this crisis. We’re all rolling up our sleeves together to find workable solutions, and the kinds of discussions we’re having today is an important part of that process,” said United States Congressman Evan Jenkins.
Congressman Jenkins and State Senator Ryan Weld are working to fight the epidemic through legislation.
“We really need to find ways to combat people coming in from out of state and pushing their product. Another big thing that we tried to focus on is getting back to education,” said State Senator Weld.
While all agree enforcement is crucial, they said it is also important to tackle drug use before it even starts.
“Prevention I think is our greatest weapon. I don’t think we do enough prevention. I think we need to talk more about prevention. I think we need to put more dollars into prevention,” said Ihlenfeld.
Officials from the City of Huntington also spoke about how they are fighting the drug epidemic. The city made national news in August 2016 after 26 people overdosed in a five hour span.