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WVU Parkersburg Educating Community on Opioid Epidemic

by Madeline Murphy

The opioid epidemic is sweeping across the nation. “This is not just a West Virginia problem; it’s a country problem,” Huntington Fire Department Chief Jan Rader said.

Chief Rader was one of three starring women in the Oscar-nominated Netflix original documentary “Heroin(e).” She was joined by both Judge Patricia Keller, the chief family court judge for Cabell County and Necia Freeman, who has helped bring Backpacks and Brown Bags outreach ministries to Huntington for WVU Parkersburg’s screening of “Heroin(e)” on Thursday, March 29.

This screening is part of WVU Parkersburg’s three-part education series to bring opioid addiction awareness to the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The film “Heroin(e)” follows the stories of Chief Jan Rader, Judge Patricia Keller and Neecia Freeman as they work to crack down on drug issues that devastate Huntington, West Virginia. The film was created by award-winning film maker and West Virginia native, Elaine McMillion.

Chief Rader, Judge Keller and Freeman stayed on after the film as panelists to answer all of the crowd’s questions on how to fight back against opioids.

“We believe Huntington will not be the center of the epidemic, but the center of the solution,” Chief Rader said.

The panel also focused on topics concerning drug court instead of prison.

“Drug Court offers us cost savings, a variety of treatment options and success that we just don’t statistically see in people who are sent to prison,” Judge Keller said.

While Chief Rader and other law officials deal with saving people fro overdoses, and the court with rehabilitating them, Brown Bag Ministries focuses on providing food, water, clothing, shelter, friendship and counsel to those out on the streets participating in prostitution to satisfy drug use.

Thursday, April 5 at 6p.m. in the WVU Parkersburg College Theatre, there will be another open panel discussion. The panel will feature first responders and an emergency room physician to discuss what happens when responding to a drug overdose.

There will be a final panel focusing on treatment for opioid addiction on Thursday, April 12 at 6 p.m. in the WVU Parkersburg College Theatre. Representatives from West Virginia treatment centers will be present.

The funding for this educational opportunity has been provided by the HighMark Foundation, with additional funding by West Virginia Family Health, Bernard McDonough Foundation and WesBanco.

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