Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON — Joshua Murphy, Assistant Director of the anti-drug abuse group STOP (Strong Through Our Plan) chaired a meeting in Williamson to give updates on the group’s activities as well as get input on future projects.
STOP has been working with the Mingo County Board of Education to develop a drug-testing policy in the county’s schools. Mingo Superintendent Randy Keathley and Director of Student Services and Attendance Drema Dempsey said the project is moving forward. She said Mingo has been communicating with Cabell County schools and hopes to have a policy similar to theirs, which has been in place since 2008.
“We are putting together an advisory counsel,” Dempsey said. “That will include students, teachers, advisors and counselors. I hope to include the STOP staff along with other community agencies.”
She said although the BOE is in the beginning stages of developing the testing policy, good progress is being made.
STOP is hosting a series of town hall meetings . Each will address a specific issue, including prescription drug abuse, synthetic drugs, drug endangered pregnancies and underage drinking. The underage drinking will be held close to prom and graduation season.
Lora Simpkins talked about Celebrate Recovery, which is a faith-based 12 step program. She said faith-based programs have a higher success rate than other programs. She said two churches, the Chattaroy Church of God and New Day Worship Center, currently host the group. “We include scriptures with everything, but there is a little extra ground work with the spiritual anchor,” Simpkins said.
She said Celebrate Recovery is going well, but said she thinks if would be helpful if legal system would require drug offenders to attend meetings.
“I think a lot of law enforcement knows about us, but it doesn’t get done,” Simpkins said.
Murphy invited those at the meeting to the next upcoming town hall meeting.
Laura Fox with STOP updated the group on efforts to procure funding.
“We are currently have four grants in the works,” Fox said. “We are working with the Mingo BOE toward the Justice Assistance Grant and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency grant. The idea is to get a prevention officer at least once a week in the middle schools. Date tells us there is a huge jump in drug use between sixth and eighth grade, I think that is where we need to concentrate. With those two grants we can do a lot of different things.”
She said they were also working on a federal grant, funds from which would be used to fight underage drinking with larger media campaign and additional staff.
Murphy reminded those at the meeting about the next town hall meeting.
“We will be meeting in the Williamson City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 5:30,” Murphy said. “We want to find out what is going on, right now. Things have changed lately, and as we move forward, we want to re-evaluate what we are doing and give the public a forum, even if it is just to vent. We need to talk about these issues, the shame needs to go away.”