WILLIAMSON - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey made a trip to Williamson Tuesday, July 30, and held a roundtable discussion in the county commission meeting room at the Mingo County Courthouse.
Several Mingo County officials, law enforcement and community members attended to discuss problems and solutions in the area, including West Virginia House of Delegates member Mark Dean, Mingo County Prosecutor Duke Jewell, Mingo County Sheriff James Smith, Mingo County Chief Field Deputy Joe Smith, CEO and a physician at Williamson Health and Wellness Dr. Donovan "Dino" Beckett, Mingo County 911 Director Doug Goolsby, Josh Murphy of the Mingo County STOP Coalition and others.
The big topic of discussion was the ongoing drug epidemic in West Virginia, its effects in the surrounding communities and how the attorney general plans to help the people of Mingo County.
"Probably the biggest thing we have been working on remains the drug epidemic," Morrisey said. "We have been really attacking it pretty ferociously, trying to go after the root causes. Beyond all the settlements you hear about and the lawsuits, we sued the DEA and forced them to rewrite the national drug quota system. And that's really big because that in tandem with many other actions, including what your prosecutor is doing and many in law enforcement, really helped in getting the pain prescribing numbers down."
Morrisey said prescription pain pills are down 51 percent since 2013.
"And that's no accident, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done, and we should not rest on our laurels," he said. "We have to make sure we continue to go after the illegal pain pills but also the illicit pills and products as well. We are starting to make some progress, but we just need a lot more."
The Office of the Attorney General is set to receive roughly $3.2 million this year from the first installment of a drug settlement, the McKesson Corporation settlement, and approximately $1.5 million annually from 2020 to 2024.
Prosecutor Duke Jewell told Morrisey that he feels the use of prescription pills is way down in the area but that they have seen a drastic uptick in the use of methamphetamine and also suboxone. Jewell said that he hopes some of the settlement money could potentially be used to expand treatment options in Mingo County.
"I think we need to make it a top priority for the Legislature, and I would like to work with them and really emphasize how important treatment is in the mix," Morrisey said. "I believe in it. I actually think that there has been short shrift in resources from both the treatment and an enforcement perspective over the years, and that has to change."
Ultimately, Morrisey told the crowd that his goal for the trip was to listen and see what problems and issues he can take back with him to Charleston and work to find a solution.
"We just want to help as many people as possible," Morrisey said. "And we want people in Mingo to know that they are getting the help they need."
Prior to the discussion, Morrisey visited and spoke with several people at the Mingo County Senior Citizens Center in Williamson.
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.