PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Part 3: aired 5/24/17
“I just knew that I had to change or I was going to die.”
Nicolette Tyson was prescribed Xanax after she prematurely gave birth to her son. It eventually led to a heroin addiction.
“The only thing I ever knew how to deal with stress was to get high,” she said.
In 2012, her battle with substance abuse landed her in prison, which was tough for the young mother.
“I never wanted to grow up and be a junkie I always just wanted to be a really good mom.”
Three years later, she entered Dreamlife, a ministry-based recovery program that changed her life.
“Actually at first I thought it was weird how nice everyone was and people just genuinely wanted to do good things for you and to love you.”
The program was run by Beckley native, Tim Craft, who struggled with drugs for 12 years. He recalls the day an overdose almost took his life.
“I didn’t realize it until ten hours later when I woke up if I had been laying down I would have choked on my own vomit and died,” he said.
Now he leads High on Hope Ministries, which features a 13-month recovery program based in Parkersburg and McConnelsville, Ohio. The organization works with law enforcement to get addicts off the streets and hosts public events highlighting positive changes within the debilitating epidemic.
Craft urges addicts to find help away from where their troubles started.
“In order for someone to become whole they really need to step away from the things that were destructive in their life.”
With messages of hope plastered on its walls, Westbrook Health Services creates a welcoming environment for its clients.
Liz Ford, Westbrook’s marketing coordinator, believes the messages could combat the stereotypes plaguing those struggling with addiction.
“Every person with whom we work is a unique individual but they’re also a person first so one of the things that we run into is that people have difficulty seeking assistance because of the stigma associated with mental health or substance abuse issues,” she said.
Westbrook Health Services is a comprehensive behavioral health center serving 8 counties. It provides a range of services including addiction counseling and a crisis stabilization program.
Ford says when people reach out for help, it’s vital that resources are readily available.
“To tell them they have to wait is not an effective thing to do. They need help when they’re ready for help they’re ready for help then so you want to be able to provide that.”
Westbrook partners with organizations like the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home, a residential recovery program that allows those in recovery to pay it forward through community service. Patrice Pooler, its executive director, says the goal is to transition people back into society.
“I’d say that they really come here completely broken emotionally they’ve lost everything due to their addictions,” she said.
“How cool it is to see somebody so broken turn into this incredible person.”
“Addicts are judging themselves enough,” Tyson said.
“And they’re hard on themselves. They need love. They don’t need judgement. They don’t need your judgement. They need to be shown love that’s what it took for me was to be shown genuine love.”
High on Hope Ministries – (304) 916-8468 http://highonhopeministries.org/
Westbrook Health Services – 2121 7th St., Parkersburg, WV 26101; (304) 485-1721
Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home – 1030 George Street, Parkersburg, WV, 26101; (304) 485-3341
Part 2: aired 5/23/17
Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens says this is the worst it’s ever been.
The drug epidemic is having a trickle-down effect on first responders. It starts with dispatchers.
Rick Woodyard, the director of Wood County’s 911 Center, says his department dispatches roughly 3 overdose calls a day.
"It's causing a stress of the resources,” he said.
Next on the frontlines are the paramedics.
Larry Stephens, the ambulance service director at Camden Clark Medical Center, said, “Throughout my career we've seen drug problems off and on but nothing like the current heroin and fentanyl drug problem we're experiencing now."
Once overdose victims are revived, Stephens says they tend to combative.
"We've had folks hit kicked spit on just numerous things that we really shouldn't have to deal with."
Susan Abdella, the director of emergency services at Camden Clark, witnesses the aftermath of overdoses all the time.
“It's just not something most people want to see,” she said.
"We've had a 2-year-old to a 70-year-old that have been affected so you know we're human beings too and we feel that pain that that patient is feeling and it affects everybody that comes into my emergency department."
According to Abdella, since 2014, the hospital has experienced a 400% increase in drug overdoses coming into the emergency department.
"In 2014 you had one type of drugs. We dealt with a lot of bath salts and then you went to meth you know and now you're at heroin and heroin now is being altered and cut and modified to many different things."
Patrolman B.D. Elliott has worked for the Parkersburg Police Department for the last 4 years and grew up in the area. As of May 8, 2017, officers there have responded to more than 130 overdose calls, which keeps the department constantly on its toes.
"A lot of times you can tell that there's been a specific shipment of some sort of narcotic that has come in because you may have an abnormal number of overdoses at that time,” he said.
"So we show up a lot of times for the safety of everybody on scene and that includes that person that has overdosed."
Sheriff Steve Stephens says law enforcement cannot arrest their way out of the problem. He supports getting addicts help but he says it’s a difficult task.
"Our biggest problem when dealing with this epidemic is where do we put these people to get them help,” he said.
"The whole gambit of drugs have changed and evolved and become more sophisticated over the time and we have to find another way to combat that,” Abdella said.
Part 1: aired 5/22/17
“There is hope.”
Julia Kempton is a 26-year-old mother recovering from an opioid addiction.
“I am healthy and I you know I can be the mother that God you know has planned for me to be," she said.
We first met her in February at the Warehouse Church in Parkersburg where she told the congregation she was on the road to recovery. It was three weeks after she overdosed on heroin and fentanyl in Belpre. The day after our interview she appeared before a judge who ruled her overdose violated her probation. As a result, she was sentenced to a year in prison.
Her overdose is one of 16 overdose calls Belpre Police have responded to so far this year. They've reported 2 overdose deaths.
In Marietta, 11 overdose calls and 3 probable drug overdose deaths.
Washington County Sheriff deputies have responded to 13 calls and 1 death.
The numbers are more staggering across the river.
The Wood County 911 Center has dispatched 230 overdose calls with 14 fatalities.
Parkersburg Police have had their hands full responding to more than 130 calls.
These numbers are as of May 8, 2017.
Sandy Hayes knows this epidemic all too well.
“It’s a pain I can’t even explain it they said it was horrible when my husband died I thought I would never make it but this is totally different totally worse," she said.
Last January, her son, T.C., passed away after overdosing on fentanyl and carfentanil in Columbus. The Sistersville resident described her son as a caring person and loving father who succumbed to his addiction. She decided to tell her son's story to help out other families.
“If this could save one person one parent from going through what I’m going through now it would be worth it.”
Former WVU football player, Rich Walters, understands what T.C.'s mother is going through. He lost his best friend last November to drugs and was an addict himself for 20 years.
“I shouldn’t even be here you know I shouldn’t even be alive guys like me don’t usually live past 25 I lived a wild life,” he said.
He's turned his life around and has been sober for the last 3 years. He now travels across the country letting others know they're not alone in their battles. The Parkersburg native says he's ready to do whatever he can to help his hometown.
“It’s imperative for us to stand up as a city. We’re under siege we’re under siege and as long as I’m alive and breathing I’m going to continue to fight this deal," he said.
“It’s our children it’s every one of our children every family whether you want to admit it or not every family is affected in some way," Hayes said.