POINT PLEASANT — David Gourley, from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), gave the keynote speech at this week’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner, sponsored by the Point Pleasant Rotary.
Speaking to a room filled with law enforcement officers and their families, Gourley explained the basics of the DEA and then went on to discuss the drug use/abuse in the U.S. and which drugs are the most threatening.
Gourley has been with the DEA for 28 years. He commented the initial calls the DEA receives comes from the local law enforcement. Drugs that are current threats include controlled prescription drugs (CPDs), heroin, and fentanyl. Heroin continues to rise in usage, whereas CPD usage is starting to taper.
“We are looking at about 200 overdose deaths per day nationwide, so that is 64,000 to 65,000 people every year pass away from overdose death,” said Gourley, regarding a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017. However, overdose deaths are starting to flatten out some because of naloxone treatments available.
He discussed a few facts concerning opiate and heroin abuse. Opposite of the 1960’s, today about 80 percent of heroin abusers started with prescription drug use. Also, approximately one in five high school seniors report misusing CPDs at least once in their life. Gourley commented it is alarming to speak with students and hear about the drug experimentation within the schools.
Gourley explained the largest diversion of CPDs is by receiving them free from friends or relatives.
“Here in West Virginia the majority of drugs are coming from other places, I think you guys do a good job and you work very hard to get and keep the drugs off the streets…(heroin) it’s everywhere, cartels are on the move and moving drugs into the United States, there is no way around it. We can work all day long with local law, but they have unlimited resources…it’s devastating our country, but we have a lot of dedicated men and women who are trying to get it stopped.”
Gourley shared additional facts on heroin abuse: heroine abuse is on the rise among young Americans, since it is a cheaper alternative to opiate -based painkillers; heroin overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2010 and in 2017 more than 60,000 people died; heroin is not limited to any demographic; heroin combined with fentanyl can be immediately fatal and is an increasing problem.
Gourley explained fentanyl is a schedule II CPD and is used to treat or manage severe pain especially “breakthrough” pain associated with cancer treatment. The initial illicit fentanyl was coming from China as they had no schedule and were manufacturing the drug in mass quantities and shipping it to the U.S.
Gourley also discussed OperationPrevention.com which is designed for students and teachers to learn about drug prevention and National Drug Take-Back day which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 and is a proper way to dispose of CPDs.
Tim Martin from Point Pleasant Rotary then introduced the Officer of the Year Award, the winner being Bryan Hill who is currently a Natural Resources Police Officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He was formerly with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources up until a month ago as his wife decided to take a job offer in Kentucky. Thus, Hill returned to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, where he orginally began his career as an officer. Hill was with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources in Mason County for four years and prior to that served in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for five years. Earlier this year, Hill was named the policeman of the year by V.F.W Post 9926 of Mason and in 2017 was named West Virginia Natural Resource Officer of the Year. While serving with the West Department of Natural Resources, Hill was a member of the West Virginia Honor Guard and maintained the department’s Facebook page, “WV Natural Resource Police.”
This was the sixth year for the dinner, with all law enforcement officers and their families in Mason County invited to a free meal and fellowship. The event was held at the First Church of God Worship Center. Rev. Robert Patterson donated the use of his church for the event and several sponsors provided financial assistance as well. Catering was done by the ladies of First Church of God.
Martin led the Pledge of Allegiance and Rev. Patterson gave the invocation.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.