Heroin Highway: Part 4 - West Virginia, a 'sun up to sundown battle'

Part four of our week-long series 'Heroin Highway' - West, Virginia, a 'sun up to sundown battle' (ABC7).

Heroin is a nationwide epidemic that crosses all geographic, social and economic boundaries.

In our area, police say the crisis is pronounced along a stretch of Interstates 70 and 81 beginning in Baltimore and running through Maryland, and beyond.

Police are calling the area, the new "Heroin Highway" and 7 ON YOUR SIDE traveled through the impacted cities and saw the devastation up close, and when we hit the streets of Martinsburg, West Virginia, it was as if everyone had a story to tell.

A young man named Daniel talked to us on a street corner, "They found a body over there, they found a body by the train tracks, all they are doing now is just finding bodies."

"There's too much heroin in Martinsburg. My son has overdosed three times; Three times they brought him back," a frustrated mother named Nancy told us as she walked passed us and into a convenience store.

"Well, my brother's in jail right now for letting a boy overdose," said Trina Leonard, a city resident.

We sat down with Berkeley County Sheriff Kenny Lemaster and asked him where all of the heroin was coming from?

"Our resources, our information, a lot of it is coming from the Baltimore-area," he said. He added, "We have groups that pool their money together and one takes a turn, and goes and picks it up."

Daniel explained it this way, "How bad is it? The fact of the matter is they call this place Little Baltimore," he exclaimed.

Martinsburg sits in Berkeley County and in 2014 the Federal Government designated the county as a high intensity drug trafficking area.

"It's bad to be recognized, but it's good to be getting the resources we need to combat this," said the Sheriff.

The morning 7 ON YOUR SIDE traveled to Martinsburg, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had convened a summit on substance with agencies from across the state and families.

The governor, who is leading a statewide fight to save lives from the deadly drug, told us, "We have cracked down on pill mills, on the illegal use of prescription drugs, but what that has gone to now is the street drugs. Heroin."

We visited the emergency room at Berkeley County Medical center and, as one hospital official put it, they see the overdoses, they resuscitate them bringing them back to life, but sadly the patients will often just sign themselves out and walk away opting against further treatment.

Dr. Daryl LaRusso said, "We see something probably related to heroin every day."

When it comes to saving someone who has overdosed on opioids, there a nasal mist called Narcan that reverses the effects of an overdose.

In 2015, Governor reports first responders statewide administered more than 3,000 doses of Narcan.

When we met with Kathy Stevens-Butts she was just days away from the one year anniversary of her 23-year-old daughter's Tiffany's fatal heroin overdose.

She said, "There was nothing, there was no help. If you do find somebody that has some kind of program there's a waiting list so long they are dropping dead before they get there."

Berkeley County's plan to build an inpatient recovery center in Martinsburg was met with such controversy, it went to court.

As night fell on the day we arrived, Otterbein United Methodist Church in downtown Martinsburg, opened its doors to residents in the effort to educate.

Resident and program leader Sue Ann Palmer asked, "How do you fight it if you don't know what you are fighting? It's not a police problem, it's a societal problem."

It was a sun up to sun down battle to save lives.

If you live in West Virginia and are looking for help, there are more than 147 treatment and recovery centers throughout the state. The governor gathered all of that information and set up a toll free number: 1-844-HELP4WVA. For more information click here.

NEXT STOP on the Heroin Highway series: HAGERSTOWN MARYLAND "ROUND THE CLOCK EMERGENCY." This episode will air Friday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. on ABC7 News.


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