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Drug crisis activates Eastern Panhandle residents

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Showing the unity of a community, Kathy Butts presented a petition to the Berkeley County Council members Thursday with more than 1,500 residents in support of implementing adult and juvenile drug courts.

During the council meeting, Butts reiterated the need for additional mental health services in the county and the Eastern Panhandle, especially the formation of drug courts as a solution to the increasing drug use in the area.

She presented the results of the physical petition, of 1,593 signatures, and also detailed the overwhelming support for the online petition and recently formed Facebook group “West Virginia community against heroin and other drug addictions.”

“Now is the time to act. Berkeley County has enough support for a drug court located in this county and more treatment options,” she said.

Butts said she has gotten great response, not only from residents, but from state legislators. Through the Facebook page, Del. Chris Stansbury contacted her to discuss an upcoming pilot program established through House Bill 2880 that would choose up to five counties to establish additional drug treatment, she said. The pilot program would be administered through a county’s drug court program. No county has yet been selected for the program.

Council president Doug Copenhaver said he supported establishing drug court in the county and would be in favor of the county as one of the five selected for the pilot program.

“I’m thinking the pilot program, naturally Berkeley County would be a great site for that, or somewhere in the Eastern Panhandle, but first thing we have to do is have a drug court. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in a short amount of time that we’ve had,” he said.

Council members commended Butts and those she worked with on continuing to fight toward bringing drug court to the county.

“Cathy and her friend have been working very hard to get the petition gathered up to show the support of the community who want to move forward with adult and juvenile drug court,” Copenhaver said.

Council member Dan Dulyea also agreed with the need to offer more drug and mental health services in the county, not just to those in the criminal justice system, but to anyone who needs it.

“I’d really like to see the old health department building that will be vacant in not too long as the (Berkeley) Day Report Center. That building is divided into two parcels and maybe we could use one part of that for the mental health aspect, like the walk-ins, and the other side for the Day Report Center,” Dulyea said.

Copenhaver said Butts’ concerns will be included in discussion at an upcoming drug summit April 16 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers in the Dunn Building. The summit will include elected officials, justice department representatives, the Jefferson Day Report Center representatives, members of the Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the public.

– Staff writer Samantha Cronk can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/scronkJN.

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