EDITORIAL: Huntington’s progress with opioid epidemic


Hanna Pennington

Connie Priddy, QRT Coordinator, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams at the 2019 West Virginia Municipal League Conference in Huntington.

Whether you choose to believe it or not, Huntington is a resilient city. It’s been able to overcome many obstacles and improve the lives of many of its residents. And it’s because of Huntington’s residents that we’ve seen such improvement. The opioid crisis has taken its toll on the Jewel City, but it has certainly not broken our spirit. 

This week it was announced that Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will serve as co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Substance Abuse, Prevention and Recovery Services Task Force. Williams has previously served on the National League of Cities and National Association of Counties task force to address and combat the opioid epidemic. 

Yes, Huntington has suffered because of the opioid crisis, but we are making progress. Our mayor strives to create programs for those in need, and he’s continuously furthering his education about the topic. Whether you like him or not, Williams does what is best for his city, and he sets a good example for the rest of us. Before we speak or give our opinions, we need to do our research and then learn from others. 

Huntington has many options for those in recovery and those who want to get help. An example of this is the pilot transportation program, which will begin next month. The purpose of the program is to provide transportation for those in recovery for substance use disorder. Volunteer drivers will transport those in the program to doctor appointments and other recovery services. Another aspect of this program is to focus on workforce reentry and economic development. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. 

Discussion is important, too. Last week, The Parthenon reporter Blake Newhouse covered a town hall panel discussion concerning the opioid crisis and substance use disorder. Having an open forum to talk about these issues, even if not everyone is in agreement, helps accomplish positive changes. We need to be able to talk to one another and share our opinions in a positive and healthy way, as opposed to comment exchanges on social media. 

Recovery Point of Huntington is another great resource. It’s a nonprofit organization that offers services at no cost. There are numerous Naloxone trainings for community members. Volunteer and donation opportunities exist at various health care and recovery organizations. Huntington’s Quick Response Team will respond within 48 hours of an overdose and offer their services. EMS, faith leaders, someone from the police department and a counselor are part of each team. 

But perhaps the greatest resource of all is understanding that substance use disorder is a disease and those affected are not to blame. Pharmaceutical companies have done their part to create and exacerbate the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharma, creators of the drug OxyContin, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a report from The New York Times. It’s important that we hold those in power accountable for ravaging the poor and rural areas most affected by the opioid crisis.  

Yes, Huntington has struggled with the opioid epidemic. But there are ways to help. We are, after all, America’s Best Community.