KEYSER - It was standing room only on Saturday, as Grace United Methodist Church hosted a screening of “Heroin (e),” the Netflix documentary which chronicles the activities
of three women who are doing their part to combat the opioid crisis in the Huntington, West Virginia area.

By Marcia Conrad
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - It was standing room only on Saturday, as Grace United Methodist Church hosted a screening of “Heroin (e),” the Netflix documentary which chronicles the activities
of three women who are doing their part to combat the opioid crisis in the Huntington, West Virginia area.
One of those women is Keyser native Judge Patricia Keller.
After the 39- minute film, Judge Keller and
Jan Rader, fire chief in Huntington, answered questions from the audience.
Keller presides over Drug Court, a special court
established to help low-level drug abusers return to a productive life. The people who appear before her bench have already been convicted of, or plead guilty to, a felony and
are substance abusers. If Judge Keller believes the defendant has a chance of getting his or her life back on track and get clean of drugs, however, she can sometimes “trade prison for drug court.”
Drug Court is a 12-month program that uses peer support and close monitoring to help offenders kick their habit and return to society. Many of those in Drug Court live in sober living homes, city mission, or in the homes of other family members. The program has a about a 50 per cent completion rate, but about 60 percent of its graduates go on to lead a productive life and return to society and many serve as mentors for others going through the program.
Drug Court costs the state about $7,000 per year, about one-fourth the cost of keeping drug abusers in jail for a year. This saves the state money, but more importantly, it saves families and it saves lives.
Keller is proud of her success rate, but she recognizes that there is more that needs to be done.
One young man who completed the program told Keller, “I think I've made a friend for life in you—a public official.”
Keller is a family court judge in Cabell
County and is the daughter of Dick and Doris Keller of Keyser.
Jan Rader, West Virginia's first female fire chief, says that Keller's program is the most successful in returning substance abusers to a clean life. Rader, who has seen as
many as 28 overdoses in one day, makes sure that first responders have a supply of Narcan in their vehicles. The drug is expensive, so Rader uses grant money and resources such as West Virginia University to help alleviate the cost of the drug.
Rader says it is sad to drive down the street and see houses, gas stations, and other places where she has responded to drug overdose deaths.
Huntington leads the nation in deaths due to drug overdoses, with 152 in 2017. This number is expected to rise as
statistics are still being tabulated. This is more than double the 70 who died from overdose in 2015.
Rader says that addiction knows no boundaries. It is an “equal opportunity destroyer.” She has seen overdoses in children as young as 12 and as old as 78.
About 90 per cent of those suffering from addiction started out with a prescription for an opioid. Those addicted to opioids often turn to heroin because it is cheaper and easier
to obtain. Addiction not only affects the person actually using the drug, but their family and their community.
When asked what would be on her wish list, Rader responded that more Narcan and de-tox beds would be at the top of that list. Most hospitals cannot de-tox and rehab centers will only take abusers if they are currently clean.
Narcan is now available over the counter, but many people cannot afford it.
Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) is sometimes the only way to ensure success of those with substance abuse disorder. Rader compared it to those who have chronic
medical conditions who have to have medication on a daily medication. Rader says that everyone can do something to help the substance abuse problem: refrain from being
judgmental, give a hug, listen.
Many women who are substance abusers often turn to prostitution to support their habit. Necia Freeman with Brown Bag Ministries dedicates her time to driving the
streets looking for prostitutes she can help. She gives them a bag of food, hygiene products, and a scripture verse. Offering a little bit of food and little bit of hope,
Freeman works with Judge Keller and Chief Rader to combat the problem facing the area.
The documentary “Heroin(e)” was produced by Charleston native Elaine Sheldon and is available on Netflix. It is being considered for an Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject
category.