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Summit Addressing Local Drug Issues Set in Wheeling Next Week

A summit to discuss how best to coordinate local resources to combat substance abuse is set for Wheeling next week.

The “Northern Panhandle Harm Reduction Summit” is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 at West Virginia Northern Community College in the B&O Building Auditorium. Doors open at 8 a.m.

It will be the first time such an event is being held in the Northern Panhandle, and participants from Hancock to Tyler counties have been invited to attend.

“We really want it to be cutting edge and innovative,” said Martha Polinsky, project coordinator with the Community Impact Coalition. “We really want to bring in ideas that we haven’t thought about before – or some ideas we have been doing, but can do better.”

The event is open to the public, but those involved in the treatment of those with substance abuse disorders will likely make up most of the attendance, she said.

Recovery coaches are expected to be among those present, as are health department workers, and emergency medical service and social service providers.

“We are hoping to have people present who are in positions to maybe make some changes,” she added.

Polinsky said her goal is for the seminar to attract people able to implement services that are discussed there, or who could improve on those they already provide.

The issue of harm reduction includes syringe exchange services, and plans for the distribution of such items as Narcan and condoms, she explained.

“It’s about anything that is going to decrease public health issues surrounding substance use disorder, drug use,” Polinsky explained. “It’s a way we are also trying to lower (the number of local) overdoses.”

The recent rise in positive cases of HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B throughout West Virginia also will be discussed, as will how best to organize the community into quick response teams to address drug-related calls.

Among the guest speakers will be Connie Priddy, a nurse with the Cabell County EMS who serves as its director of quality compliance/QRT coordinator.

Next, representatives from Prevention Point Pittsburgh will talk about their program, which includes the operation of a mobile harm reduction unit.

“It’s not like anything we have in West Virginia,” Polinsky said. “It offers a different point of view about how to do things.”

Lastly, participants will discuss what actions should be taken locally to curb substance abuse issues.

“We’ll talk about moving forward, and ask what are we going to do next?” Polinsky said. “What do we have the ability to do with the people who are here?”

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