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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of West Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Community Leaders To Create Ohio Valley Addiction Action Plan


1125 Chapline Street, Federal Building, Suite 3000 ● Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 234-0100 ● Contact: Chris Zumpetta-Parr, Public Affairs Specialist


WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – Community leaders from Northern West Virginia have joined forces to attack the problem of drug addiction in the Ohio Valley.

United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, and Judge David J. Sims of West Virginia’s First Judicial Circuit announced the formation of a working group to address the issue of addiction as well as the large number of drug overdoses that are occurring in the region. Ihlenfeld and Sims are serving as co-chairpersons of the group, which has been in operation since July and will present a final addiction action plan to the community in December.

The working group is comprised of officials from a variety of fields, including education, law enforcement, healthcare, rehabilitation, business, legislative, treatment, recovery, and the news media. Subcommittee meetings took place in August and September and will continue throughout the fall.

According to Ihlenfeld, the goals of the group include preventing people from using heroin, helping treat those who have become addicted to heroin, opioids and other drugs, choking off the supply of heroin to the region, and working collaboratively to make the Ohio Valley stronger, safer, and healthier. If the plan is successful it will be implemented in other parts of the state and region.

“Drug abuse has become a public health crisis in the region and so we’ve gathered passionate and talented leaders from multiple disciplines to push back against addiction,” said Ihlenfeld. “This is a problem that impacts everyone in the Valley in some way and so we must work together. Based upon work that the group has already done, I’m optimistic that we’ll find a formula that works.”

Judge Sims stressed the importance of collaboration when taking on a task of this nature.

“It has become clear to me through my work as a judge that a multi-pronged approach is necessary if we’re going to loosen the tight grip that addiction has upon our communities,” said Judge Sims. “Hopefully, by bringing together the various skills of the people that make up this working group, we’ll make a real difference and save lives.”

Members of the Ohio Valley Addiction Action Plan Working Group are as follows:

William J. Ihlenfeld, II, United States Attorney & Co-Chairperson of working group;
Hon. David J. Sims, Judge, First Judicial Circuit & Co-Chairperson of working group;
Dr. Angelo Georges, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Wheeling Hospital, Chairperson of Medical Subcommittee;
Dr. Dianna Vargo, Superintendent, Ohio County Schools, Chairperson of Education Subcommittee;
Del. Erikka Storch, W.Va. House of Delegates, Chairperson of Business & Legislative Subcommittee;
Sheriff Chuck Jackson, Brooke County Sheriff’s Department, Chairperson of Law Enforcement Subcommittee;
Mark A. Games, President/CEO, Northwood Health Systems, Co-Chair, Mental Health/Substance Abuse Treatment Subcommittee;
Terry Stemple, Chief Executive Officer, Healthways, Inc., Co-Chair, Mental Health/Substance Abuse Treatment Subcommittee;
James Lee, Retired Chief Probation Officer, First Judicial Circuit, Chairperson of Community Corrections Subcommittee;
Brenda Danehart, News Director, WTRF, Chairperson of News Media Subcommittee;
Patti Barnabei, Founder, Never Alone West Virginia, Chairperson of Support Group Subcommittee.###

Updated January 7, 2015