Mayor named to national opioid abuse task force


Ryan Fischer

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams addresses City Council January 25.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams was invited to a joint task force created by the National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo) to address the nation’s heroin abuse epidemic.

According to a press release from the city, the City-County Task Force Addressing Heroin and Opioid Abuse aims to enhance awareness, facilitate peer exchange and identify sound policy and partnership solutions. The task force is comprised of city and county leaders from across the country.

“I’m pleased that the efforts of our community to collaboratively and aggressively address the problem of opiate addiction are being acknowledged nationally,” Williams said in the release. “I am looking forward to sharing our story with other municipal and county leaders across the nation and learning from their experiences to bolster what we already have in place in Huntington.”

The NLC and NACo elected leaders will explore practices for community prevention and overdose response, effective treatment options and public safety enforcement and supply reduction.

In 2015, there were 944 overdoses in Cabell County, 70 of which were fatal. Fifty-eight of those fatal overdoses occurred within Huntington city limits.

Williams focused on the opioid epidemic and efforts within the city to change the dialogue about addiction during the State of the City address Feb. 16.

These efforts include a partnership with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department for West Virginia’s first syringe exchange program, which launched September 2015.

According to the release, the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy was created November 2014 and has partnered with approximately 50 partner agencies to acquire $3 million in grants and in-kind assistance.

In-kind assistance includes a donation of 2,200 doses of Naloxone, which is being supplied to family members of drug addicts, first responders and schools in Cabell County.

Clara Maynard can be contacted at [email protected].