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Miller fields questions from law enforcement on drug epidemic

March 25, 2019

LOGAN — U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., made a stop in Logan on Friday afternoon to answer questions from local law enforcement officials and others regarding the ever-increasing drug epidemic.

Members of local police departments, the Logan County Sheriff’s Department, the West Virginia State Police, agents with the U.S. 119 Drug Task Force and the local judiciary system were invited to a roundtable discussion with the congresswoman, who represents West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, at the Logan County 911 headquarters. The roundtable lasted about an hour, and Miller mainly used it as a forum to listen to questions and concerns from what Logan County Sheriff Sonya M. Dingess Porter called the “boots on the ground” in the drug fight.

“I’m more of a listener than a talker, which you may have figured out on the campaign,” Miller said. “But it’s important to me to get the feedback from you all, because I want to know how I can help you and I want to know how you can help me on the level of what I’m doing in Washington, D.C.”

Before she took questions, Miller discussed her life in Huntington prior to being elected and then her political life in the nation’s capital so far, which included her disappointment over the Michael Cohen hearing and some run-ins she’s had with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. She also reaffirmed her support of President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Porter started the discussion by emphasizing what she feels is the importance of receiving funding from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA). She then discussed how important funding for equipment law enforcement can use is, and said funding has become an issue because the LCSD’s budget got cut $25,000 because of the county’s dwindling tax base.

“That’s a problem,” Miller responded.

She and her chief of staff, Michael Chirico, both offered the possibility of some additional grant money through the U.S. Department of Justice.

The room was then filled with discussion about local law enforcement’s efforts to raise awareness and combat drug abuse in schools.

“We’re seeing a lot of our children have mental health issues, either from drug abuse or drug-endangered environments from the family members,” Porter said, “so we try at our monthly meetings - and even as their daily function - to work with the Board of Education and their counseling staff to address it.”

“From our freshmen down, these are our first wave of drug-addicted babies,” said Sgt. Nick Booth with the LCSD, “and these kids have a set of problems that none of us were ready to deal with.”

Miller suggested having someone from a treatment center like Prestera in schools to help deal with that situation.

“I’d say we’re upward of 90 percent in this county of grandparents raising children,” Booth added. “The statistics came out - I think it was 70 (percent), and that’s reported. You’re probably in the 85 to 90 percent.”

“And teachers are having to do so many more things,” Miller responded. “It’s not just teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. They have so many other issues to deal with.”

The floor then went to some of the undercover agents of the U.S. 119 Drug Task Force, who requested not to be named.

“Most of the drugs we’re dealing with right now are not homegrown. We don’t have an opioid problem like a lot of people think we do,” one agent said. “We did, but we’ve transitioned into fentanyl; we’ve transitioned into ice; we’ve transitioned into all these other substances that are coming from other areas - Columbus, Detroit ... as far as Mexico. So how do we stop that? Interdiction.”

Interdiction is a term referring to officers who deal with the trafficking of narcotics through other probable causes such as traffic stops.

Other points addressed at the meeting included the lack of reliable, qualified individuals in the workforce due to the widespread inability to pass standard drug tests and specific critical needs by the LCSD.

In a post-meeting interview with The Logan Banner, Porter said she believes the meeting went “very well.”

“I think she got information necessary to take back to Washington, D.C., some things that we need changed - grant restrictions, to kind of change those up if she could help us do that, and getting additional funding such as a task force for interdiction,” she said. “I think it’s the backbone of getting a better handle on this. When deputies are taking call to call to call, they just don’t have the time to do interdiction. Hopefully we can get funding through HIDTA and get something specialized to where we can do that in our area.”

“I’m very grateful to be able to meet with the law enforcement here in Logan County,” Miller said in a post-interview. “I respect them and what they’re doing. They do it because they love it. I look forward to seeing how I can be of assistance in my office.”

At the end of the meeting, Porter presented Miller with a Logan County Sheriff’s Department pin.

Miller’s first stop prior to coming to the 911 Center in Logan was at Boone Memorial Hospital in Madison. After she wrapped up in Logan, she was headed to Mingo County to hold another roundtable at Williamson Memorial Hospital.

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