Three of the speakers at Friday’s Drug Court graduation had local ties despite often working away from the coalfields in their jobs. The trio, in fact, were natives of Boone, Mingo and Logan
Counties who were happy to be back home in the hills where they could share the good news of what happens when people take the chance and change their lives for the better.
Mike Lacy, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Director of Probation Services was special guest speaker at the graduation. He spoke about his own humble beginnings in the coal camps
of Boone County where some of the people he went to school with as a child wound up becoming celebrities- of a sort.
Lacey said at one time people who did not know any better mistakenly believed Drug Courts were soft on crime. He noted, “I don’t hear that much anymore.” Lacy explained that in reality sending an offender to jail is a lot easier than it is to send them to a drug court program.
“The problem is, if you go to jail, you go in as an addict… and you come back out as an addict,” he explained, saying that going into drug court meant 40 hours a week of community service, drug screens, counseling, education classes and more, which could make it possible for addicts to reach recovery- and to rebuild their lives. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to stay in the program.
Lacy admitted he actually grew up with the notorious “Dancing Outlaw” Jescoe White and his infamous sister Big Mamie, and gave more details about his humble upbringing in Boone County.
Lacy said the regular and routine abuse of powerful prescription-only pain medications had become the scourge of the 21st century and had some alarming figures. Lacy said 3.4 million people had taken drugs for the first time according to one study and that 8 million, four hundred thousand more are abusing drugs regularly.
“That says to me, the problem of drug abuse is not going away,” he said, noting that the 24 drug courts in West Virginia are doing their best to combat that scourge.
“I have tremendous respect for you graduates because I know what it takes to stay in this program,” he said, noting that for the grads their struggles with addiction could be seen as a Goliath that they had slain as did the Biblical hero David of old.
Logan County has judges, probation officers, county commissioners, state representatives and a dedicated staff of treatment specialists who care about people and get involved in helping them to change their lives for the better.
“You are lucky,” Lacy said. “Not all counties have a drug court. You are fortunate.”
Taking another cue from scripture Lacy compared drug abuse to the ancient towns of Sodom and Gomorrah and he urged the graduates to go forward in their lives like Lot and his daughters and “do not look back. Keep moving forward.”
Spokesman Mike Browning brought greetings from WV Senator Joe Manchin III who extended his greetings to the officials and graduates of the 7th Judicial Circuit’s Logan County
Drug Court. A Mingo County native, Browning is the former editor of The Logan Banner and like many West Virginian’s he saw the devastation drugs have taken on the lives of the people of the coalfields and the communities where they live. Browning was happy to be home again where he worked so hard for so long covering the causes and effects of drugs in the mountains.
“This program is a chance to overcome addiction and to make a major change in the quality of life for the participants and their families,” Manchin wrote via letter. “The effects of addiction extend not only to the friends and family of an abuser, but also to the heart of a community, and I
thank everyone involved in this court for helping these individuals achieve success.”
Manchin noted the Logan County Drug Court program offers numerous community service opportunities and classes to encourage strength, confidence and stability. “I hope these drug courts continue to expand their programs throughout our state and, in turn, change many lives for years to come.”
Robbie Queen delivered a message from Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, who like Manchin was unable to attend in person. Queen is a native of Logan County who made his mark in his community through volunteering and being active while he was still in High School. Queen continues to serve his community while being a spokesman for the Congressman.
“I truly appreciate all the hard work, dedication and commitment of everyone here,” Rahall wrote.” Your efforts are one of the pillars in the foundation that keeps our communities strong.
With your service and commitment, we will continue to move forward with our pursuit of solutions for substance abuse in Southern West Virginia.
“I congratulate you on this graduation day,” Rahall added. “To arrive at this point you have travelled a challenging path. But this milestone we celebrate today is testimony to the will and determination of the human spirit and the heart and soul of every West Virginian.”