The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 29, 2013

Drug solutions

The Register-Herald

— Congratulations to law enforcement and court officials in Summers County. Because those officials worked cooperatively, 54 people suspected of drug dealing were arrested last week after a special grand jury handed down sealed indictments against them.

Hinton State Police detachment Sgt. T.L. Bragg and Cpl. J.D. Cooper led the eight-month investigation that resulted in 172 drug-related charges being brought against the 54 suspects.

All hands of the law enforcement and judicial services were called into action to make the sweep of arrests.

After police gathered evidence and made controlled buys, Summers prosecutor Amy Mann requested the special grand jury session, which was granted by Summers Circuit Court Judge Robert Irons.

Assisting State Police in rounding up the suspects were Hinton Police, Summers Sheriff’s deputies and Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers.

The results were the best that could be hoped for — all 54 suspects were picked up.

Good work all around.

Hinton officials say their little town at the confluence of three rivers, like so many others in West Virginia, has been beset by a drug culture that has resulted in a rise of addiction-fueled crimes.

Last week’s effort shows what can be accomplished with everyone working together for the greater good.

We hope all West Virginia law enforcement is taking notes and applying the same process.

But, of course, more — much more — is needed to curtail the rampant use of drugs by such a large portion of our residents.

Mann, like most officials, can’t put her finger on the true reason for the widespread addiction, but she said her office offers an alternative to incarceration, a short-term drug treatment counseling program. She also tries to get defendants into long-term rehab programs through probation.

Therein may lie the answer to the beginning of the end of addiction. Long-term rehabilitation. But there aren’t enough places in the state to treat all of the addicts who pass through the court system.

That should be a major issue taken up in next year’s legislative session.

Our prisons are already overcrowded, this we know. Incarcerating an addict won’t help if he/she falls back into the same self-destructive patterns and relationships upon release because the addicts know nothing else.

Rehab can do more to change that culture.

Legislators should talk about meaningful ways to fund such long-term centers — not study it to death as often happens with big issues.

Yes, we want lawmakers to explore all possible methods of stopping illegal drug use. But when a potential solution is right in front of you, why not latch on?