Press Release and video from the W.Va. Governor’s Office:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Governor Jim Justice wants every West Virginia middle and high school student to hear the anti-drug message developed by a career narcotics officer at the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Director Jack Luikart of DMAPS’ drug control policy office has built his education and awareness presentation upon his 30 years of law enforcement experience. He is also partnering with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with whom he was often assigned during his career, as part of that agency’s 360 Strategy.
“Providing the information at this age is extremely vital,” Luikart said during a recent visit to Logan High School. “Statistics show us that between the ages of 12 and 17, most individuals will decide whether or not they’re going to try drugs.”
Luikart has spoken at West Virginia schools for years. Since joining DMAPS in July 2017, he has addressed more than 28,000 students and school-age youth while visiting more than 50 schools. Starting with the current school year, Luikart has brought with him a printed message from Gov. Justice.
“Upon graduation, I want you to have the most successful career you can achieve,” Gov. Justice says in the flyer. “West Virginia is growing, and our state desperately needs a skilled and educated workforce. However, too many of our young people are wasting great opportunities because of illegal drugs.”
Offered on behalf of the governor, the presentation focuses on the harm caused by drugs not only to individuals and their health but also to families and communities. DEA Community Outreach Specialist Amanda Lacy joined Luikart to help deliver the message to Logan High.
“We feel that if they’re informed as to what their options are, what these drugs actually do, then they will make better choices, that they will not go down the path that say, their friends of their parents went down,” Lacy said. “We feel that is the most important thing to prevent drug abuse in our state.”
So far this during the 2018-2019 school year, Luikart and the DEA have visited 22 schools and addressed more than 15,000 youth. To reach every middle and high school in West Virginia, they have begun training both State Police and the school-based prevention resource officers so they can provide the presentation.
Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy is a staunch supporter of Gov. Justice’s fight against the opioid crisis. Sandy cites figures from the U.S. Department of Justice showing that approximately one-fourth of all state and federal inmates are in on drug offenses.
“The staggering statistic is that in 2016, 4.96 million people were arrested in the United States,” Sandy said. “The figures show that 22,874 were under the age of 10; 221,810 were between the ages of 11 and 15, and 712,744 were between the ages of 16 to 20. Therefore, the governor’s plan to help our youth in West Virginia can have significant benefits for society for decades to come. It is also important to note that every 25.7 individuals incarcerated in West Virginia costs taxpayers $1 million dollars.”
Luikart said the program aims to give students enough information so “maybe, maybe, they will take the initiative to do the positive thing.”
“After we do a presentation, there is always three, five, seven kids who walk up and tell us their story about how they are being raised by their grandmother because parents are fighting addiction,” Luikart said. “If we get through to one and when they’re faced with that decision, they decide to not use it…then it’s worth it.”