FLOTUS impressed by work in Huntington area around opioid epidemic
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — First Lady of the United State Melania Trump is admiring the progress being made when it comes to the fight against the opioid epidemic in Cabell County and surrounding areas.
Trump met with federal, state and local leaders from all sections of the battle to discuss the current issues and solutions during a Monday visit in Huntington that started at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
“I see the example here of what can be done all across the country,” Trump said. “This is the state that has a big problem but we are making big progress.
“I hope people across the state and all around the world look at here and see the example of what can be done in other states as well.”
Trump’s major initiative is Be Best, which focuses on providing information to families so the country can be a safer and healthier place for families.
She mentioned her initiative and how it supports West Virginia’s efforts against drugs during a roundtable discussion led by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
At the roundtable discussion were political leaders West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.), and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, and community leaders such as Connie Priddy with Cabell County EMS, Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert, Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial, and Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader.
Priddy handled a lot of questions from leaders because she has stood on the front lines with the EMS and first responders as the Quick Response Team Coordinator.
She detailed how the efforts are coming for the team. Quick Response Teams is an initiative by county officials where first responders visit homes of those who have overdosed a couple of days after the incident in an effort to help with treatment.
Trump was interested in the Quick Response Team effort, which has been funded by the DHHR, as Priddy noted that many children are on the scene of overdoses inside a home.
Priddy told the roundtable within the first week of this initiative that they knew this model was onto something.
“We have people open the door and say, ‘So you’re here to me help me, you’re actually coming to my house to help me,’ and from that point on we knew that we had something that was special, something that was different.
“First responders can be a benefit in this crisis. First responders are the first point of contact in an overdose event. So if we don’t utilize them, we are missing a really good opportunity.”
Initiatives like the Quick Response Teams in Cabell County are why Huntington Mayor Steve Williams continues to call the city the epicenter of the solution of the crisis.
He spoke those words to Trump on Monday and asked that she brings that message back to Washington on how Huntington can be the pilot program.
“If we figure it out at this local level, then you can go to New York City, Chicago, and L.A. and implement the Huntington model into those larger cities,” he said.
Williams also stated just how tough of a task this is to fight.
“If not another gram of heroin is distributed, if not another gram of heroin is sold, we will be dealing with this issue for the next four or five decades,” Williams said.
School discussion also took up a lot of time during the roundtable talks as Trump asked what it was like for the children who are affected by the opioid crisis and what resources the children have in schools.
Marshall University has continued to be engaged in the fightagainst this crisis. Gilbert said 60 percent of children in the state are affected by the crisis.
Gilbert talked about MU’s disciplines that are involved such as its medical school pharmacy school, clinical psychology, social work, and even English that help individuals write recovery stories to help inspire other individuals.
Marshall is also assisting federal and state law enforcement in their work to combat drug trafficking in the area.
Trump wrapped up the roundtable by saying, “Thank you all for being here and having me here. I see here the example of what can be done around the country. You are making big process. I see the example of what can be done in other states as well. Thank you for all your support.”
Trump then went and had a private meeting with several individuals including a mom whose baby was born addicted to drugs and went through Lily’s Place. Rebecca Crowder, the executive director of Lily’s Place in Huntington, also attended the private meeting.
Trump had previously visited the facility in 2017.
Before heading back to Washington D.C., the first lady stopped at Ritter Park to view the several hundred American flags that are displayed to represent children in foster care in Huntington.
Later Monday afternoon, Capito, Manchin, and Miller joined McAleenan in meeting with Cabell County drug court participants and administrators.
By: Jake Flatley
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