Victims of overdose number 300 purple flags at Heritage Port

Ohio County

The opioid epidemic rages on, and the West Virginia United States Attorney’s Office is remembering those lost to it.

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — The federal government is working every day to fight a battle, one that has marked West Virginia top in the country, and one that is taking more lives each day. 

Purple symbolizes drug overdose awareness. At Heritage Port 300 flags stand to remember the 300 lives lost in the Northern District this past year.

How many deaths we’ve experienced; I think it doesn’t hit you. But, when you go down to Heritage Port here in Wheeling and see those flags, I think it sends a powerful message to those family members and others who have experienced losses. We haven’t forgot you and we’re still working on it.

Randy Bernard, Acting United States Attorney, Northern District

There are hundreds of purple flags, not just in Wheeling, but in the various districts throughout the state. 

In 2019, West Virginia faced 871 fatal overdoses across the state, and 2020’s numbers are still unavailable. But something tells the West Virginia Federal District that a pandemic did not curb those stats.

“We seem to be at the epicenter of the epidemic,” said Bernard. “And now the up-rise of overdose deaths.”

Word on the street is there’s a pinch of something even more dangerous being added to the hard drugs and it’s now in all neighborhoods.

It isn’t just your long-term addict. It could be the person experimenting with the drug, heroine or whatever it may be, for the first time. If it’s laced with fentanyl, it could be the last thing they experience in life. And I will say, crystal methamphetamine is becoming more and more prevalent. That’s a major issue for us.

Randy Bernard, Acting United States Attorney, Northern District

Since the beginning of this year, there were 987 overdose calls to EMS across the state, with 150 happening in Berkeley County alone. 

While disheartening, there is hope. Education, awareness and now Quick Response Teams across the district, including Berkeley, Monongalia, and Marion counties, are seeing a 40-percent intervention success rate from offering treatment after overdose. 

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