The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 23, 2011

‘Call to Unity Summit’ targets drug epidemic in southern W.Va.

Until a few months ago, prescription drug abuse in rural Wyoming County was one of those hush-hush societal ills no one much talked about, at least not in the open.

Now, it is an everyday topic.

Come Monday, the faith-based group One Voice, certainly no stranger to what authorities label an “epidemic” in southern West Virginia, hopes to bring all forces together for a “Call to Unity Summit” in another front of the war against drugs.

“What is new is that everybody is starting to voice it,” Debra Curry-Davis, founder and executive director of One Voice, said of widespread drug misuse.

“Before, it was kind of like a hidden, little, dirty secret. Now, it’s come to light. It can’t be denied anymore. We’re going to have to do something about it.”

One Voice is offering a number of speakers, among them Steve Collett, a former drug user whose success in overcoming addiction was spotlighted in a documentary, “Appalachian Dawn.”

“This is to show the parents and the families that there is hope,” Curry-Davis said.

“People can recover and go on and have a productive life.”

Others lined up to speak include Delegate Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, one of the first public officials to openly attack the drug problem, and Rev. Keith Reed, pastor of Cook Memorial Baptist Church in Pineville, who lends his parsonage to One Voice for meetings.

“This is a call to action for all churches to get involved and help where they can,” Hall said Thursday.

“We are going to provide very tangible ways the local churches can get involved in helping out with the drug problem. Government is not the solution to all of our problems and cannot do a lot of things as effectively and efficiently as local groups. More importantly, we believe that God will provide the victories in this fight, if His people have faith and do some work.”

Wyoming County’s struggle with drugs caught the attention last spring of Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, and helped to prompt a special summit at Twin Falls State Park.

Curry-Davis sees the event at Pineville Middle School, set for 6 p.m. Monday, as another part of the overall picture.

“Anything that brings the community together and gives hope is going to help,” she said.

“Everything begins with the voice.”

Informational tables will be set up so efforts can be shared by One Voice’s partners in the Wyoming County Prevention Coalition.

“We’ve been in this six years now,” Curry-Davis said.

“This is nothing new to us. We called it an epidemic six years ago. Now, everybody is saying what we’ve been saying for six years. We’re excited about that.”

Curry-Davis acknowledged that One Voice alone cannot solve the drug abuse problem. Neither can one pastor, or one elected official.

“But if we all come together and do what we can do at the table, we’re going to make some progress,” she said.

“We’re going to save some people. I’m excited that people are starting to see this.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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