In little over two months, five people have died in Wyoming County because of drug poisoning or overdose.
Research from 2008 showed the leading cause of death for young adults in West Virginia was drug overdose.
Larry Bourne is recovering drug addict.
“I’ve OD’d five times; by the grace of God I’m sitting here talking to you,” Bourne said.
After years of addiction he says he found hope at Chad’s Place, a faith- based substance abuse treatment program in Wyoming County. Now he works there as the house manager.
“I make out chore lists for the week, see that they’re done, hold classes in the morning,” he said.
“We go the church of course on Sunday and Wednesday, it’s mandatory for anyone here as a resident.”
Herman Cook. He’s the pastor at the Ark of Safety church in Glen Fork, a small town between Oceana and Pineville in Wyoming County. Four years ago, Cook opened Chad’s Place.
The program was named after a young man who overdosed on the prescription pain killer Oxycontin. Chad’s Place partners with several other Christian organizations in the region to provide counseling, food, clothing and shelter to men struggling with addictions.
“We seen the need in this area and we hooked up with a group called One Voice,” Cook said.
“They give 12 step faith based classes to the men and help. It was a group of churches and people who got together.”
Cook says there is a good demand for the services Chad’s Place provides. He receives 5 to 20 calls per week, but there’s only enough room for about eight men
“The hardest thing is really having enough beds,” he said.
“Traffic is tremendous. The problem is out there we just need help to sustain them and get them on the right track.”
This is one of the only places for men to find inpatient help in the region.
Christy Lester is with McDowell County FACES, a family resource network. She says women in the region find it even more difficult to get help. Southern Highlands deals with some of the substance abuse issues but Lester says several faith
based organizations, like Chad’s Place are working to fill the void.
“Our faith based communities seem to help families,” Lester said.
Lester says these programs are mostly designed to offer counseling and are not equipped to handle withdrawal symptoms.
“When you’re looking at a person in a crisis especially a drug crisis they’re having a medical issue,” Lester said.
“If they don’t have that training or if they don’t know what to look for or how to help people sometimes it really scares them and that’s a barrier.”
If men need help in McDowell County, they’re normally referred to a program called Legends, which is at least an hour’s drive to Mercer County. For women, the closest inpatient facility is in Huntington which is a three hour drive.
“The whole southern region is the same, there’s very very limited options for help unless it’s outpatient,” Lester said.
“Now if a person needs detoxification they do a rapid detoxification and then they refer them and go on a waiting list and then they’re back to using.”
For women with children, there are even more challenges. They have to find child care in order to travel to Huntington for treatment, assuming they make it to the top of the sometimes long waiting list.
Roger Acord drives a bus shuttling children to the Ark of Safety Church. He also works at Chad’s Place.
“Our kids are more in danger now than they ever were,” Acord said.
“I’ve got two girls teenage girls their daddy overdosed and died on a Monday and on Wednesday their mommy overdosed and died.”
“I’ve seen a lot of kids suffer. The only way we’re going to help is with these guys.”
Linda Goode Phillips represents the 22nd district in the House of Delegates and is aware of the obstacles to treating the drug addiction that is rampant in the region.
“Our geography protected the moonshiner well I think now our geography protects drug dealers,” Phillips said.
“It’s not a culture thing I’m not saying that. Because it’s harder get in and out of our area.”
In November, the governor unveiled a strategic plan to address substance abuse in the state with a price tag close to 24-million-dollars.
House bill 4666 would supply funding for the plan which includes prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.
The money would come from excess Medicaid funding.
The bill would also create an Alcohol and Drug Disbursement Board that would have the new responsibility of creating a grant program.
The bill passed the house but has a long way to go before reaching the Senate floor.
If it passes, this bill would help to fund substance abuse treatment facilities like Chad’s Place even though it’s faith based through a grant program.
Phillips says she recognizes that funding for faith based facilities is challenging.
“I just think we’re going to have at some point come to an agreement that faith based facilities are working,” she said.
“If we don’t have any other facilities then we’re going to have to provide some funding for that, because it is providing a service to the people of our area.”