Ohio Valley reacts to President's Declaration on drugs - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Ohio Valley reacts to President's Declaration on drugs

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By Declaring opioid abuse as a public health emergency, President Trump gave a lot of people hope. 

From those who help recovering addicts, to those who arrest drug traffickers there is cautious optimism about the declaration and what it would mean.

"It's about time! We here in the Valley have been battling it for years," said Unity Center Executive Director Mary Hess.

But Hess says her optimism is tempered with concerns over some of the president's other comments. Like when he said that drug prosecutions have gone down in recent years, and he'll bring them back up.

"Punishment is not the answer," Hess said. "It is through treatment and through reconnecting people into the community and giving them better options."

The head of the drug task force of Belmont County's Major Crimes Unit says prescriptions from doctors are at the heart of half the cases,"50% of them say that they become addicted to opiates and heroin, or eventually heroin, through being prescribed pain medication through a doctor," said John McFarland. "And that's something else that I feel the government could do more at controlling."

Chief McFarland says the county contributes what it can, but the task force doesn't have the kind of funding they need. 

"We don't have a full-time drug enforcement operation where a bunch of guys are designated to investigate drug crimes," he told 7News.

Hess would like to see more treatment available, "I would like treatment facilities to actually be opened that are focused on drug rehabilitation."

Both say they are encouraged by the federal emergency declaration, and they hope it will create some funding to help here in the Ohio Valley. Because at this point, the problem is just getting worse.

"As the Belmont County Major Crime Unit, we are at an all-time high in our caseloads," said McFarland.

West Virginia remains the number one state in the nation for overdose deaths.

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