The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

November 17, 2013

The journey continues

Wyoming County’s addition to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area was long overdue

Another tool was added to Wyoming County’s arsenal for the continuing fight against drugs in that county.

Rep. Nick Rahall announced Wednesday that Wyoming will be added to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), enabling law enforcement there to receive additional federal resources to help further drug control efforts.

We applaud the action and say that it is long overdue.

It was in Wyoming’s Twin Falls State Park that one of the first summits on the pill epidemic was held. Rahall brought federal, state and local forces together to discuss solutions.

At that time in 2011, former Wyoming prosecutor Rick Staton said the county ranked among the worst places in the nation for deaths attributed to drug overdoses, averaging almost two a week.

According to The Register-Herald’s archives, Rahall and Sen. Jay Rockefeller have been in a hard push since 2011 to have the county brought under the HIDTA umbrella.

But just giving the county HIDTA designation won’t automatically make the drug problem disappear.

Local, state and federal law enforcement in Wyoming County — and all over southern West Virginia — work long, hard hours to root out the pill dealers and users. The addition of HIDTA will go a long way to bolster their efforts.

But the fight against drug abuse must be fought on many fronts. It’s not all about arrests and convictions.

It takes crackdowns on pill mill doctors who hand out prescriptions like candy.

It takes pharmacies that are willing to stop selling cold and allergy pills that contain only pseudoephedrine that is used in cooking methamphetamine. We commend those that have chosen to forsake the profit from the sales and instead are looking out for the welfare of the people.

It takes help from the public — anyone who sees drug activity can report it anonymously. It will take their patience, as well. Arrests will not happen overnight. Officers must build a case against the perpetrators that will stand up in court.

It takes leaders who are willing to discuss other ways that can help — including tougher penalties and long-term rehabilitation. Granting probation to repeat offenders obviously isn’t getting the job done. Some prosecutors would like to see a comprehensive long-term rehabilitation program. Without such help, so many fall right back in with old friends and bad habits when they are released.

It will also take a frank discussion on ways to create more good-paying jobs that will give folks something to alleviate their boredom other than by turning to drugs.

We know there is a long road yet to travel. The HIDTA designation is but one avenue to help us complete the journey. But it is a good start.

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