Dave Peyton: Local officials bring Huntington back from the brink
Huntington is fortunate to have Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial and Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader.
Because of Dial and the police force he is in charge of, Huntington’s crime rate dropped 20 percent in 2018.
Because of Rader and the first responders she is in charge of, Huntington’s drug overdose rate dropped 40 percent during the same time. And overdose deaths are down 50 percent.
As a fire chief, nurse and first responder, Rader has spent her career saving lives. But when the opioid epidemic hit Huntington with a vengeance, she realized the city needed to take a brand new approach to life-saving. The old ways didn’t work with drug users.
In a powerful TED talk, Rader told what it’s like on the front lines of the drug crisis - and how Huntington is taking an unusual new approach to treating substance-abuse disorder that starts with listening. What a concept.
What is TED? It is a community of people dedicated to distributing new ideas via the internet and recently on CBS television.
“We value our community for the deep participation that occurs within the comment section of each talk - a commenting culture that encourages robust, thoughtful observations, feelings and insights that bring a talk to life. At TED, we love maintaining this culture and take the discussion of ideas seriously,” it says on TED’s website.
If you haven’t heard Rader’s TED speech, you can find it on the internet. Just search for “TED and Jan Rader.” Her speech is too long and too full of new concepts to explain here. It involves such ideas as yoga, massage, PTSD and how NOT to treat those overtaken by opioids.
I remember a few months ago, the crime rate in Huntington was so bad, Gov. Jim Justice called upon the West Virginia National Guard to help city, state and federal law enforcers who were trying to reduce crime in the city - crime primarily related to drugs.
It was downright scary to see National Guard helicopters circling the city.
Dial, a graduate of Huntington High School who studied political science at Marshall University, asked for help from every authority he thought could help.
I’m sure he would say the reduced crime rate in the city is not because of him. But my sources say he is responsible for setting a tone that brought about the reduction of crime, especially drug-related crime.
Part of Dial’s success is the fact he is a “people person.” He’s affable, he frequents Facebook, he’s a big fan of music, and he realizes that taking breaks from police work occasionally makes him a better chief.
The war on drugs and crime in Huntington is far from over. Huntington is still listed as one of the top 100 crime cities in the nation. So is Charleston. Imagine a small state like West Virginia having the top two cities population-wise with so much crime.
And the drug problem is far from being solved. We were late in attacking the problem, and when the city first attacked it, it may have made it worse.
Rader has straightened that out, and Dial is solving the crime problem in a positive manner.
We hope they stay in Huntington and keep on doing what they have been doing.
If they do that, Huntington has a good chance of saving itself.
Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.