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Cinema packed for screening of 'Oxyana' documentary

By Charles Young

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The controversial documentary on the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Wyoming County made its West Virginia debut Tuesday night to a capacity crowd at Park Place Cinemas.  

The screening of "Oxyana" was followed by a panel discussion of the state's drug abuse problem and how to tackle it.

The West Virginia International Film Festival sponsored the event and festival organizer Emmett Pepper served as host and moderator.

State Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin, Kim Miller of the Prestera Center for drug treatment and recovery and Kelly Sizemore, a recovering opiate addict and advocate for drug recovery, made up the panel.

Bill Webb, a Huntington resident, posed the first question to the Benjamin.

"We have known for at least a decade that people who are mandated to treatment in the long run do as well as people who go voluntarily," he said. "So I was wondering if there were any plans to expand rehabilitation within the jail system itself." 

Benjamin said that a law, recently signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, called 'Justice Reinvestment' aims to help former convicts who are recovering addicts be placed into supervised treatment programs.

To combat recidivism, ex-convicts in the program are assigned a supervisor who oversees their treatment and monitors their progress.

"If you take a person who's coming out of punishment and just drop them off into society, they're going to go right to where they began," he said. "It's a wonderful start for West Virginia I think."

Joe Stanley, of Prichard in Wayne County, asked the panel why methadone, a synthetic opioid, is used to treat recovering addicts.

"Why as a nation would we tolerate that?" he asked. "Now they're making another fortune off of the treatment drugs ... to treat the addiction that they created."

Miller said that the use of methadone and other substitute treatments options had proven to be very affective in many cases.

Seizmore said that it would be more productive to look for solutions.

"The fact is that this happened. It already happened and we can't go back and change it," Seizmore said. "Now the question is what are we going to do about it."

Mari-Lynn Evens, a documentary filmmaker whose work deals with coal mining, pointed out the link between the state's history of heavy industry and the high rates of prescription drug abuse. 

 "Are you interacting with the coal industry, which is obviously a key component of this, on doing anything to tackle the problem?" she asked.

Benjamin discussed the relationship between coal and drugs and mentioned how pain pills had been prescribed in the past to help miners cope with the pain of the jobs. Benjamin didn't directly answer the question. 

"That's a law enforcement thing and I'm on the judicial side," he said. "We just get the results." 

Contact writer Charles Young at charles.young@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796


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