West Virginia Fights Back: The cost of fighting the substance abuse crisis

MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Local law enforcement isn't giving up on fighting our state's drug epidemic.

In fact when it comes to manpower needed to tackle the problem, some agencies often find themselves giving overtime, and having officers log extra hours to investigate various incidents.

We asked Monongalia County Chief Deputy Al Kisner to think back, specifically to think back on his first year as the office's chief deputy, his eight years as sheriff, and years prior to that. To Kisner, the problem is nothing new.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago, the problem was not anywhere close to what it is now," Kisner said. "We see a change from somebody smoking a couple of joints of marijuana to somebody smoking some crack or snorting some cocaine. Heroin use is major again and prescription medication."

The Monongalia County Sheriff's Office is a member of the Mon Metro Drug Task Force, along with several other local, state, and federal agencies. Kisner noted how the issue has only gotten worse and now, part of the investigation is how the drugs and criminals come from other states.

"One of the main drivers is money," Kisner said. "Where you can make money off of a product that's where they're going to continue to go."

In order to keep up with all of this, it takes hours of manpower and time. While that's the case for the Mon Metro Drug Task Force, it's also that way for West Virginia State Police.

"It's more prevalent nowadays and it's often leading to other crimes," said Sgt. J.P. Branham with West Virginia State Police.

Branham has served roles both in Monongalia County, Gilmer County, and Marion County. Is he a stranger to the state's ongoing drug problem? Absolutely not.

"Some of the larger scale investigations take several manhours and it's a lot of overtime for our troopers," Branham said. "The money issue becomes very much an issue at that point."