PKG | New report shows Berkeley County's heroin overdose rate mirrors Baltimore City
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - According to a new report released by the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Rrafficking Area (HIDTA), Berkeley County has it's hands full of heroin.
"We knew we had this problem, so we were not surprised of the results,” said Berkeley County Councilperson Dan Dulyea. “[Obviously, we were] very disappointed that it came out the way that it did, but not at all surprised."
Even though Berkeley County’s population is only a little over 100,000 people, the report shows the county’s heroin problem reflects numbers seen in more urban areas - areas like Baltimore City, which has a population that is five times larger than Berkeley County.
"You think of Baltimore, and the urban areas surrounding Baltimore, as really where the problem areas are, where you going to find the heroin addict,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told WHAG in a phone interview last Friday.
For every 100,000 people, the report states Berkeley County had 22 heroin overdose deaths in 2014, while Baltimore had 31 heroin overdose deaths.
Frederick County (Md.), on the other hand, had half the amount of heroin overdoses that Berkeley County had.
“[The report] showed us...that it's everywhere,” Capito said. “It's in rural America, which is Berkeley County."
According to the report, Berkeley County’s rural-sized resources are not equipped to tackle an urban-sized heroin problem.
The report also further enforced the message that heroin affects all types of people.
"I absolutely do know three people who lost their lives in the last year to heroin,” Capito said. “The folks that I knew were working, they were high functioning, they had jobs."
Over the last five years, Jefferson and Berkeley counties have had 93 overdose victims. Of those, 81 percent of them were male, 90 percent were white and 82 percent of them were employed at the time of their overdose.
Officials said those figures are not just affecting minorities or impoverished communities.
"You never think it will happen to you,” said Dulyea, whose own son struggles with addiction. “I think I was in denial for awhile about what my son was doing,” Dulyea continued, admitting that it wasn’t until his son stole a firearm from him that Dulyea started to ask a lot of questions.
“That's one of the problems that we're facing right now with the opposition,” he said. “If it is not in their home, they don't understand it. They continue to think that we can arrest our way out of this problem.”
Prior to the HIDTA report, Berkeley County Council had already taken the steps to launch a drug and alcohol rehab center.
According to council, Capito, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) are interested in using the rehab center project as a pilot program from the entire state of West Virginia.