The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 8, 2013

Anti-Oxyana page created; town hall meeting scheduled

OCEANA — Several Oceana residents who are upset about the message that the documentary film “Oxyana” sends are planning a town hall meeting to hopefully generate some solutions to the prescription drug epidemic.

The documentary, screened recently at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, was directed and filmed last summer by Sean Dunne.

A meeting will be hosted May 31 at 6 p.m. in the Oceana Middle School auditorium, where residents and town, county and state officials are being invited to voice their concerns and pose answers to the problems.

D.J. Morgan, a resident in Oceana for most of his life, said the meeting will focus on two missions.

“The first prong is to address the misconceptions that the documentary have portrayed in the press about the town of Oceana. We want to give our residents a chance to showcase themselves and the town and give the region, and possibly even the country, a different look at what the real Oceana is.”

The second mission is to bring community leaders, law enforcement and local residents together to help find solutions to the ever-growing drug problem.

“We’re not naive. We know there’s a drug problem in central Appalachia, but we also know the problem’s not just Oceana. That’s why we’re trying to include all the leaders in our area. The prescription drug problem encompasses all the communities in central Appalachia.

“We’re hoping by getting a town that’s motivated from this documentary, coupled with getting our leaders into this area, maybe we can formulate a plan, take our region back and start implementing steps to effectively deal with this prescription drug problem we have.”

In addition to changing the classification of some prescription drugs (a solution proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin) and implementing a drug registration database through pharmacies (a proposal strongly back by Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner), Morgan said he believes if the community has more interaction with law enforcement, it will greatly help the problem.

“Having the community involved is always helpful for law enforcement, because if the community feels welcome to give them tips and speak about the problems they’re seeing, that can only help the cause.”

He said he is sure there will be a ton of additional ideas that will stem from the town hall meeting.

“Hopefully from that whole slew of ideas, we can come up with a plan that works.”

Morgan, along with two other Oceana residents, Jim Cook and Callie Daniels, created a Facebook page April 28 called “Anti Oxyana.”

The banner across the Facebook reads, “This page was created to dispel the myths of the film ‘Oxyana’ and tell the truth about the small town of Oceana, West Virginia.”

Cook posted that he wanted “to create a place where both sides, those for and against, could discuss their viewpoint” of the film.

They are posting reviews of the film, positive aspects of Oceana and Westside High School, and offering their thoughts on how Oceana is being misrepresented.

“Our problem with Mr. Dunne’s film is not the subject matter so much, because we do recognize that there is a drug problem in this area, it’s the way he portrayed the town, that the vast majority of the residents are addicted to drugs,” Morgan said.

“That’s just not true. He allowed inaccurate statements to go into his film to drive his agenda. He allowed one interviewee to state that half of his graduating class from five years ago, 2007, are dead from overdoses. I spoke with the local principal at Westside High School, Debbie Marsh, this morning and that’s absolutely just not true.

“When you’re a filmmaker and you’re interviewing someone, you have a responsibility to fact check those statements before you pass those off as being true. That’s not being a responsible filmmaker and that’s just doing damage to the community. Yes, we do know there’s a drug problem, it’s just we are not the people and the town Mr. Dunne is portraying us as.”

While the Anti Oxyana page had over 560 “likes” within a week of its creation, some of those posting on the page believe the documentary could be beneficial, even “a blessing in disguise.”

Timmy Blankenship wrote, “Oceana does have a huge problem and I don’t believe the name of the town is what gave this director the idea to go film there. It is bad there. It is bad everywhere, but with a population as small as Oceana’s, it is more visible. I hope this documentary forces people to see just how bad of a problem it is.”

Another person who commented on the page, Ashlea Tran, said she loves her hometown and is blessed to live in such a beautiful area.

“Unfortunately, when people drive through, they don’t see the beauty because the drug-addicted are their welcoming wagon,” Tran wrote. “I’d have to say when I watch the documentary and whether my opinion is good or bad of the film, which I will decide then, at least there has been much more light put onto this ‘problem’ our town has...

“Before Oxyana, there were only a handful of people who cared enough to help clean up Oceana and help those who truly wanted it. This may have been what it took to get more of the good residents truly involved into making the town back to what they remember it being. You could say that maybe this is our blessing in disguise.”

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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