- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

July 8

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on drug courts:

The Marion County Adult Drug Court has only been operating for a few months, but you can count Circuit Court Judge Michael Aloi as a believer.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reports that since 2011, more than 70 babies have been born drug-free to women participating in drug courts. Of those born drug-free, 10 babies were born to participants in juvenile drug courts.

Aloi says that in the few months the court has been operating in Marion County, he has seen it help several men become drug-free fathers.

“One day I saw a participant enjoying a nice day with their family at the park,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

We need more days like that in West Virginia.

And he says it’s also working for mothers, helping keep their newborns from being born addicts.

Having to create a program to prevent newborns from being born addicted to drugs due to their mothers abusing drugs is an example of how deeply the tentacles of drug abuse have spread in our communities.

It serves as a reminder to us all that the world of drugs is not separate from us in some dark and parallel place, but is right here in our community.

Drug users and dealers are not people who are apart from the rest of us, and we need to do what we can to help them.

We think drug courts are serving not just people trying to break the addiction cycle, but they serve as a reminder to all of us how deeply this scourge has spread into all of our lives.

And it is doing something positive to counter that.

Travis Zimmerman, also with the Marion County Adult Drug Court, makes an observation that shows how difficult the problem is for us in West Virginia when he says using illegal drugs is all in the family, passed down from parent to child.

“It’s a family cycle of substance abuse that goes from one generation to the next, and so on,” Zimmerman said.

Educating those who abuse drugs and breaking that family cycle is critical. Zimmerman says that until the pattern of individuals having children with drugs in their system, or later becoming addicted themselves, is broken, the problem will remain in our families.

That means the problem will continue in our communities.

We think drug courts are an effective way to break that cycle of drug abuse - in one person, in one family, and in one city at a time.




July 6

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on hiring freeze in state government:

The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.

Let’s not do that again.

Tax collections have fallen — ever so slightly — in recent years. The time has come for state government to adjust its spending to fit the wallets of the taxpayers.

To that end, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin continued a hiring freeze indefinitely. That is what a business does when its sales stagnate or even drop.

This hiring freeze affects all non-emergency state employee positions, according to the governor. Obviously, openings in corrections will be filled, for example.

But this is a good opportunity for Tomblin and the rest of the management staff to review the staffing needs of state government. If the state can get by with seven people in an office instead of 10, then do so.

If not, then the duties of the office need careful review.

Government agencies are notorious for mission creep, in which the agency seeks to protect and expand its budget by assuming new functions that go beyond the legislative intent when the Legislature created the organization.

Also, computers have made administering government easier. As the public uses computers to file paperwork and pay their taxes, the need for staffing in government declines. That should eliminate positions.

Reduction in government should not be limited to eliminating vacant positions. Gov. Tomblin and his cabinet members should eliminate filled positions and assign those employees where they are needed.

West Virginia ranks No. 8 among the 50 states in percentage of its workers who work for the government, according to the Census Bureau. That includes federal and local government workers.

After all, the private businesses that generate most of the tax revenue in the state know that they must keep their costs down. So should the state.




July 6

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on crack cocaine resurgence:

A wave of crack cocaine in the mid-2000s helped drive violent crime rates in Huntington to levels not seen before or since.

Through most of the 1990s and early 2000s, the city’s violent crime rate hovered a little over 500 crimes per 100,000 people. But by 2007, that rate had risen to 750, as drug dealers from Detroit and Columbus set up shop in Huntington and brought a strong current of street violence with them.

Crack is a crystal form of cocaine, which is distributed in solid blocks or rocks rather than as a powder. It is typically heated and smoked, producing a short-lived, intense high followed by a rapid decline in mood that often turns to anxiety, hostility, sleeplessness and paranoia.

Confrontations over deals and turf are common in all types of drug trafficking, but the edgy characteristics of crack can make users and dealers more prone to violence.

It took several years of increased police staffing, tougher enforcement and innovative crime fighting programs to bring the violent crime rate back down in Huntington.

Also, cocaine and crack use began to decline nationally. The number of people starting with cocaine dropped from more than 1 million a year in the mid-2000s to about 600,000 in 2012, and the crack decline was even sharper, according to surveys.

Of course, the drug problem did not go away, with cocaine giving way to rampant abuse of prescription painkillers and in more recent years heroin. During 2013, the Huntington Police Department’s Special Investigative Bureau seized 17,300 doses of prescription drugs and 5,500 grams of heroin, compared with 694 grams of powder cocaine and 428 grams of crack cocaine.

But this week city officials reported they are seeing a resurgence of crack cocaine. Just six months into 2014, HPD already has confiscated more crack than in all of last year. On their raids, officers also are finding firearms more regularly.

So far, officers have only theories about what might be contributing to the influx of crack.

But it will be critical to dig into what might be causing the uptick. Is there some reason pill or heroin users are turning to crack or does the city have a new group of drug users? Do some of the dealers have a history with crack from the mid-2000s and why are they back on the scene?

Fortunately, Huntington is better prepared to deal with the problem today with better police staffing and more sophisticated enforcement. But the trend is another reminder that where there is a demand for drugs the supply will follow, and our community needs to continue to focus on the broader goals of treating those with addictions and providing the education and opportunities that help prevent drug use from the start.



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