Editorial: Fight against addiction is constant but necessary

May 21, 2019

Reducing horrific events down to one- or two-word phrases can either minimize the impact of those events or serve to remind us of how far we need to go to recover and ensure they never happen again. 9/11 was one of those events that united Americans on a national scale. Locally, the phrase “quadruple homicide” serves the same purpose.

It sounds like a sterile phrase that hides the terrible thing that happened the night of May 22, 2005, but for those of us who were here and remember it, it remains a call to action.

Four young people lost their lives in the worst crime in Huntington in recent memory, if not the worst ever in the city: Donte Ward, 19, of Huntington; Michael Dillon, 17, a Huntington High School junior; Megan Poston, 16, a Cabell Midland High School junior; and Eddrick Clark, 18, of South Point, Ohio, a senior at South Point High School. All four were shot at 1410 Charleston Ave., just off Hal Greer Boulevard and close to the open-air drug market in the Artisan Avenue area.

Their deaths came about 13 months after Karen Stultz, 39, of Catlettsburg, Ky., was shot and killed near Charleston Avenue over a $40 debt for crack cocaine.

Back in 2005, the common belief in the Tri-State was that the problem with illegal drugs was largely confined to the Fairfield West neighborhood, where crack and other substances were sold and where dealers from Detroit had their base of operations. The events of May 22, 2005, proved otherwise.

In the past 14 years, the drug situation has changed. If crack is still a problem, it’s been pushed down the priority list by other substances that have become more widespread. After crack came meth and prescription painkillers. As legislation and law enforcement crack down on one drug, another moves in to take its place. Heroin and fentanyl dominate the conversation now, but meth is said to be making a comeback.

As the illegal drugs of choice have changed, so have the community’s attitudes and determination to do something. More people see addiction as a common problem that affects all races and classes. More treatment centers are available to help people who realize they need help, and drug courts strive to push people toward treatment instead of incarceration.

The producers and distributors of legal drugs are being challenged in court for not doing their parts in preventing the flow of massive amounts of drugs into towns that obviously did not need the quantities that were ordered.

And yet people still feel the need to use drugs they know are both illegal and harmful. A couple of years ago, Huntington was the center of national attention in the fight against illegal drug use. The cameras have moved on, which is good, because that means we’ve made enough progress that journalists and others can look elsewhere.

The need for constant vigilance remains. Some parents check the playground at the park for needles before they let their children play. They’re always on the lookout for needles in public restrooms, too.

The event that came to be known as the quadruple homicide was the low point in Huntington’s war on illegal drugs. The fact that one victim was from Ohio and an earlier victim was from Kentucky showed it was and is a Tri-State problem.

This is no time to let up in the community’s fight against addiction. Actually, no time is.

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