Huntington may allow offenders to trade jail for addiction treatment under proposed ordinance

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As leaders of the city of Huntington, Wv work with businesses, the public and the addicts themselves to come up with a more sensitive drug and alcohol control policy, the city council is reviewing a proposed ordinance that would let some offenders trade jail for rehab.

“Look, man. I’m sitting right there, drinking,” said a shirtless Steve Blevins as he points to a stoop on a busy Sixth Street where he had been drinking the first of two 40-ounce Steel Reserve beers at 5 PM on Wednesday.

When asked is he is ready for rehabilitation, he first said “No” then paused and said “Yeah. I might be getting ready to.”

Chief Joe Ciccarelli said to the Huntington City Council on Tuesday that the ordinance would give anyone arrested for public intoxication the option to go to a treatment facility instead of jail.

“It could potentially open the door to recovery, and at the same time, avoid the jail fees,” said Ciccarelli to the council.

The director of development at Recovery Point of Huntington, a free, abstinence-based recovery center for men, says he likes the proposed ordinance because it is sensitive toward addiction.

“We’ve got to be there to pick folks back up, and help them get back on the road to recovery,” said Matt Boggs, a recovering addict, who, after three years of recovery, is running the 100-bed facility.

While the standard wait for an available bed at Recovery Point is three to six months, this ordinance would target addicts who are directly affecting communities and in immediate need of intervention.

“They’re out in the community, suffering from addiction, and can become a threat to themselves or others,” says Boggs. “We want to be able to get them in here as quickly as possible.”

Steve Blevins tells us he was practically born into alcoholism.

“My dad drank. My grandpa drank,” said Bevins. “My grandpa is a bootlegger.”

The navy veteran says if he were to get the offer to go to treatment instead of jail, he would think about it, because he is getting tired of going back and forth between the streets and jail.

The ordinance had its first reading this week, and may see some changes.

Boggs, who has been heavily involved in shaping the city’s drug and alcohol control policy, says he would like to see the ordinance expanded to offer similar opportunities to addicts of other drugs.

“That’s going to be something that we’ll have to determine as we iron out the details,” he said. “Right now, we’ve typically been getting folks who are under the influence of alcohol, but obviously, we want to look into some other substances as well.”

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