Generation Killer: How Access to Deadly Doses Impacts Today’s Youth
The state department addresses the issue of youth substance in many ways. One main focus is through mental health services.
Numbers based on a new DHHR web tool indicate users age 19 and under are the most common overdose patients in four North Central West Virginia counties -- Randolph, Lewis, Taylor and Upshur.
Peydan Michael is a sober living facility resident in Clarksburg who says he started young.
"I started using at a pretty young age. I'd experimented with alcohol first when I was probably about 11 or 12. Then I started blacking out by the time I was 13," says Michael.
A justice department official visited Lewis County High School after five students were hospitalized in December for taking unknown prescription pills.
"Any addict will tell you that withdrawal from drugs is the most painful experience you'll ever experience," says Stacy Bishop, pubic affairs director for the Northern District of West Virginia Department of Justice division.
Less than three weeks before two Morgantown high schoolers were hospitalized for vaping. the devices were laced with heroin.
"They're finding them.. Not just with heroin. But their finding them with meth and they're finding them with fentanyl," says Bishop.
Teens say it's boredom.
"Around here there's not a lot to do, so kids resort to doing drugs and vaping," says Kiara Daquenne, a Lewis County High School senior.
Daquenne and peer mentor Ryanne Garrett is trained to administer Narcan to her friends if they need it. She's 17. She says the responsibility is sometimes too heavy to bear.
"It was nice knowing I could make a difference in someone's life however it was kind of nerve-wracking because if I have to deal with someone who's having a breakdown, if they're not 100%, how do I deal with them?" says Garrett.
Peydan Michael would have been one of those needing their help.
"By the time I was in high school, it escalated more into pills painkillers percocets, oxycodone, hydrocodones and all that," says Michael.
Since 2016, the W.Va. Bureau for Behavioral Health releases funding opportunities for mental health services to support children amid the drug crisis. Nine are in operation so far in the state. Three in Region 4.
Christina Mullins, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health, said mental health support is the right approach for children and young people.
“First, these types of services are important to support families with a child experiencing a serious emotional disorder. The intent of the service is to keep the child in their community with their family. Second, with the increased number of children in foster care and families experiencing substance use disorder, we are aware that this increases the chances of children having adverse childhood experiences. Offering mental health services is critical to support WV kids and increase resiliency, says Mullins in an email to WDTV.
Michael didn't have access to these kinds of services in Tucker County when he started using seven years back.
After rehab he moved more than 50 miles from home to ensure he set himself on the path to recovery.
He says he's never going back.
"I knew if I went back around the same people and the same place.. All the hurt and hang ups and stuff that I had before.. That was all going to be waiting for me there to fall back into," says Michael.