Opioid crisis

PRINCETON — In a case study on opioid abuse by the National Association of Counties, Mercer County was highlighted for its initiative against the addiction epidemic.

The case study is included with various other studies across Appalachia in a report by NACo entitled, “Opioids in Appalachia: The Role of Counties in Reversing a Regional Epidemic.” The full report, sprawling 40 pages, documents the gruesome details of addiction in Appalachia, and the ways that counties are combating addiction.

Within the Mercer study, several different preventions already in implementation were mentioned such as Community Connections Inc. (CCI) and juvenile court.

Located in West Virginia, Community Connections is a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting families. Of there numerous programs, they include, Camp Mariposa, Drug-Free Allstar Basketball, Family Resource Network, Identogo Services, Prevention Without Borders, Princeton Renaissance Project, Project Renew, and SADD. All of which are involved with providing services to better the community and the residents within it.

Of the Law Enforcement system in Mercer, the law enforcement Assistant Diversion (LEAD) program was also commended for their work. The LEAD program works alongside Southern Highlands Community Health Center with those who have had encounters with law enforcement with the proper treatment.

Other than the anti-addiction efforts, the report also mentioned the county’s Keep Mercer Clean Campaign which has, “Mobilized the community for a thorough, county-wide spring clean-up.” In 2018 NACo awarded the cleaning campaign with a NACo Achievement Award for the work of encouraging and cleaning the community.

In the report, NACo spoke with Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett. Topics Puckett discussed within the report include the aforementioned organizations as well as suggesting that all interested in battling the epidemic, support local coalitions.

“It takes a true collaborative effort to have an impact,” Puckett said.

According to Puckett, the opportunity to highlight everything that Mercer County is doing right was a great opportunity. “We’ve got issues, let’s not sugar coat it,” Puckett said, “The days of focusing on the negative are over. Let’s talk about change.”

Puckett, who was one of 10 commissioners on the NACo Task Force several years ago as well as serving on the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), has devoted himself on bettering the community as much as he can.

Due to his work and insight into anti-epidemic issues, Puckett has been asked to represent the county at the National Prevention Network Conference in Chicago of this year. During his 90 to 120 minute workshop, Puckett will be discussing how to battle the epidemic crisis as well as how to properly uphold and guide a community. At the conference, Puckett will be speaking to officials of the state, county, and city level from varying states.

For more information on the Opioids in Appalachia: The Role of Counties in Reversing a Regional Epidemic report visit www.naco.org and search for the report’s title. For more information on the A Prescription for Action Report, visit www.opioidaction.org/report/.

 Contact Emily D. Coppola at ecoppola@bdtonline.com