Harm-reduction Town Hall ignites civil debate

Local News

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Harm-reduction opportunities for those struggling with substance use disorder has been a controversial topic in Charleston. But Monday night, the conversation was civil, and engaging.

The West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute held a virtual town hall to discuss various topics like needle exchange programs and other harm-reduction programs for those who need it.

Tonight’s Town Hall was a civil, yet educational discussion about the pros and cons of the different programs West Virginia has to offer for those who are struggling. Some people didn’t understand why it should even be a debate.

“Since we need every resource available, I guess I just find it unsettling that we’re even debating getting rid of valuable resources in our community,” said Ashley Murphy, the Director of Addiction Services at CAMC.

Others say organizations like SOAR, and needle exchange programs don’t have enough data to show if they are successful.

“I’m just wondering how all of this is measurable, and if there’s not a plan. Like someone mentioned you have to have a program before you have the data – are these programs anonymous? Like how do you know you’re going to build a relationship?” said, Ashley Switzer, who participated in the Town Hall.

Murphy says the only way any program will be successful is if everyone comes together. “This is an extremely complex issue and we all have to find a way to work together and use every resource to help the individuals in our community who are struggling.”

And Dr. Susan Bisset, President of the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute says the Town Hall was a success as everyone exchanged opinions. “My observation is that this has been the most civil, open, and respectful conversation I have seen about this issue since way before 2018.”

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