LOGAN -- It's something Serafino Nolletti hears nearly every day.
"'What are we going to do about drugs?' I hear it all the time," Nolletti said.
As the mayor of Logan, Nolletti is well aware of the drug problems plaguing southern West Virginia. On Thursday, he was one of several state and local representatives on hand as Prestera unveiled the region's latest tool in combating the problem -- the Logan Crisis Center, set to open early next week.
The six-bed crisis stabilization unit will serve Boone, Logan and Mingo counties, and will offer immediate, crisis-level care to those with behavioral health problems as well as those who are detoxifying from controlled substances. According to Karen Yost, CEO of Prestera Center, the agency has two existing crisis/detox centers in Charleston and Huntington, but the new Logan center has generated excitement from those in Logan County ready to invest more in curbing drug use in the area.
"We've put a lot of services in a lot of places, and I don't think we've ever been so welcome," Yost said.
Unlike many of its other programs, Prestera's crisis centers are designed for very short in-patient stays; the average stay is five days, Yost said. The center is geared toward providing the first round of care for patients who have suffered a psychotic episode, have attempted self harm, have recently overdosed or have experienced any sort of serious behavioral health or drug-related issues.
The state has a record of promising strategies to curb drug abuse, according to the Trust for America's Health. West Virginia met eight of 10 indicators outlined by the study as promising strategies to combat the epidemic, including laws prohibiting doctor shopping and lock-in programs that prevent suspected abusers from filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies.
Despite this, the state has a drug epidemic that is unrivaled elsewhere. According to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than six million Americans abuse prescription drugs. West Virginia has the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the U.S., with nearly 29 of every 100,000 residents suffering from overdose fatalities -- a six-fold increase over two decades.
State Sen. Art Kirkendoll, D-Logan, said while the state's drug problem is pervasive, initiatives like the Logan Crisis Center are vital to fighting the problem because allowing it to go unchecked should not be an option.
"It's an epidemic, and what makes it more challenging is that the age of people who get involved with drugs keeps getting lower and lower," Kirkendoll said. "When I served on the [county] commission [in Logan] ... we actually had every judicial program that was out there, and were one of the few counties that did. We were one of the first for drug court, for day report, for anything we thought could give the people of this area who were in this sickness, this mental mode, a chance to return to the mainstream."
The center will be staffed by registered nurses and licensed nurse practitioners, and will have a therapist and physician on hand to see patients every day. Once they have been cleared to leave the center, most will be referred to Mingo-Logan Mental Health or another long-term treatment program.
A grant awarded by the Governor's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse funded the center. Raamie Barker, the chief adviser to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, attended the event on behalf of Tomblin, and said the governor was pleased to see a needed service become available to his home county.
"I have the expectation that there will be many success stories coming out of this facility, and the dedication of the people here will allow that to come to pass," Barker said.
The Prestera Center for Mental Health Services treats more than 20,000 West Virginians each year and has locations in Kanawha, Putnam, Logan, Boone, Clay, Lincoln, Cabell, Mason and Wayne counties.
The Logan Crisis Center is located at 197 Dingess St. in Logan. For more information on Prestera, visit www.prestera.org.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5189.