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U.S. drug czar lauds Huntington drug efforts

Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer Mayor Steve Williams, left, speaks with Office of National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli during a bus tour of important areas of the River to Rail initiative on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Huntington.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer
Mayor Steve Williams, left, speaks with Office of National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli during a bus tour of important areas of the River to Rail initiative on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The city of Huntington’s problems when it comes to drug abuse are not unique, according to U.S. Drug Czar Mike Botticelli.

What is uncommon, Botticelli said, is how the city has responded to the challenges of drug trafficking, crime and addiction.

Botticelli, along with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va, spent four hours in Huntington on Wednesday hearing statistics, touring areas of emphasis for law enforcement, talking with addicts on the way to recovery and traversing the corridors where infants born sick because of a parent’s addiction are treated.

As acting director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Botticelli has seen plenty of what drug abuse can do to a community.

“What is unique and what is special is how the community has come together to look at a holistic response to the problem,” he said of Huntington. “There’s an acknowledgment that every part and every sector of the community has a role to play: law enforcement, public health, prevention, treatment … That the community has a part to play, that some of this is tied to economic development and community vibrancy.

“So, I think our job at the federal level is to continue to look at communities that are good models and how they work and what we can do to continue to provide them the resources that they need.”

The day started with Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial giving Botticelli, Rahall and local law enforcement officials a diagnostic of the city’s victories and continuing challenges.

He started with the Weed and Seed program, a partially federally funded effort, which began in 2008, a time when crime seemed to be spiraling out of control and public perception of law enforcement was in a low place.

With that program, officers had the resources to target a specific area and go after high-level dealers…

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