President Barack Obama visited West Virginia last week to address the state’s epidemic drug addiction — and one man was so inspired he called 911 and turned over a substantial collection of drugs.
Obama spoke Oct. 21 about reducing the demand for opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, at a community center in Charleston, where he met with parents and others whose loved ones have battled addiction.
A man from nearby Cross Lanes repeatedly called 911 that same day and asked for help with his drug addiction before dispatchers finally sent Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies to his home.
He placed his hands on the wall when deputies arrived, and he told them that he had watched TV coverage of the president’s speech and asked for help.
The man, whose name was not released, told deputies he was a heavy drug user but hoped to “live a drug-free life for his mother” after watching Obama’s speech, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
He showed deputies a cooler where he kept a set of digital scales, 16 Suboxone packs and patches, marijuana, 19 grams of ecstasy and more than 150 pain pills.
The deputies seized the drugs and took them to an evidence technician for disposal, the sheriff’s office said.
No criminal charges were filed against the man, who is in his mid-30s, and deputies took him to a treatment center, where he voluntarily entered a drug addiction rehabilitation program.
“We applaud this person’s self-initiated efforts and wish him well in his recovery,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s office offered to assist anyone who hopes to recover from drug addiction.
“If you’re genuinely an addict who wants help, the first responders around the Kanawha Valley want to help,” said Sgt. Brian Humphreys, of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office.
West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdose deaths, with 33.5 fatal overdoses for every 100,000 people — which is twice the national average.
Nearly 2,900 West Virginians have died from a prescription painkiller or heroin overdose over the past five years.
Obama said his 2016 budget — which has almost no chance of passing in the U.S. Congress — allocated nearly $100 million in new funding for overdose prevention programs and expanding medically assisted treatment programs.
The president also pointed out that the Affordable Care Act requires insurance carriers to cover substance abuse treatment just as they do for diabetes or heart disease.
But some West Virginia officials believe Obama is at least partially to blame for the state’s high rate of drug addiction though his administration’s regulations on coal mining.
“While President Obama finds it necessary to address our state about a war on drugs, it is inconceivable that he refuses to address in any meaningful way the plight of our miners and their families,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican. “The president’s policies have consigned our state to poverty and have caused a loss of hope in our citizens.”
Watch the president’s speech posted online by the Charleston Gazette-Mail: