POINT PLEASANT — Mason County is second to only Kanawha County when it comes to the number of meth labs discovered by law enforcement in the entire state, according to some of the latest crime statistics.
This statistic was shared by John Machir, Mason County supervisor for Mountain State Healthy Families, during an informal meeting between the Mason County Commission and representatives from Congressman Nick J. Rahall’s office this week. The meeting was meant to educate Rahall on the issues and needs of Mason County and one of those needs, at least according to Machir, is finding funding for treatment and recovery services for addicts.
Machir reported more bleak numbers, saying Pleasant Valley Hospital currently reports 80 percent of births at their facility are to drug-addicted mothers — this accounts for about 120 births annually. A number of these infants are directed to Cabell-Huntington Hospital where, according to a 2009 study, the cost for treatment per child is approximately $36,000.
Machir then stated the Mason County Day Report Center (DRC) currently has 42 participants who have been placed in the program due to a variety of criminal offenses. Of those 42 participants, 41 have drug-related issues. As such, the DRC has been acting as the gateway for drug treatment services for Mason County citizens. Machir said the availability of residential drug treatment beds in the State of West Virginia is extremely limited at 275 beds - unfortunately, the state has identified 19,000 addicts. DRC is placing the majority of Mason County residents in treatment programs in Dayton, Ohio and Michigan as a result.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related deaths referred by medical examiners and coroners - it covers over one third of the nation’s population. In 2009, there were 546 participating medical examiners and coroners who reported to DAWN on all deaths referred to their office which met the DAWN criteria for being a drug-related death.
Mason County reported drug-related deaths at a rate of 27.4 percent and drug-related suicide deaths at a rate of 3.9 percent for a total of drug-related deaths of 31.3 percent per the standardized population comparison. Of the 546 counties and metropolitan jurisdictions reporting, only 10 had higher rates of drug-related deaths than Mason County - these were Baltimore, Md.; Denver County, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Bernalillo County, N.M.; Espanola, N.M.; Silver City, N.M. Ada, Okla.; Weatherford, Okla.; Beckley and Bluefield.
Machir said there is currently a grassroots effort to attempt to open a drug treatment facility in Mason County at the old Care Haven Nursing Home north of Point Pleasant. Details are still being worked out but one of the main issues is finding the financial resources to do the renovations needed to the building.
Kelly L. Dyke, district director with Rahall’s office, asked Machir to forward her more information on his treatment facility proposal and she would send this on to the congressman’s staff to help identify any funding opportunities for the project.
Machir told the county commissioners and Rahall representatives that, unfortunately, due to the rate of drug sales and drug use and their level of penetration into the community, treatment itself must become part of prevention.