A drug user turned himself in to the cops after hearing the president speak. They didn't arrest him.

Last week, President Obama traveled to Charleston, West Virginia, for a candid conversation about substance abuse.

President Obama speaks at East End Family Resource Center in Charleston, West Virginia. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.


Before leading a panel discussion, the president talked about the startling toll that substance abuse has taken on the country and on the Mountain State in particular.

The problem has reached epidemic proportions as 44 people in the United States die each day from overdoses of prescription painkillers. West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country with nearly 34 per 100,000 residents.

"The numbers are big," said Obama. "But behind those numbers are incredible pain for families."

Hours after watching the president's remarks on television, one man took a brave step to change his life.

He called 911, admitted he had a drug problem, and asked deputies to come to his home.

When they arrived, the man (whose name was not released) put his hands on the wall and directed the deputies to a cooler full of drugs and paraphernalia, including marijuana, ecstasy, pain pills, and a digital scale.


A photo of the items seized by the police. Photo by Kanawha County Sheriff's Office, used with permission.

And the officers did something equally impressive: They didn't arrest him.

Instead, the man was taken by ambulance to a treatment center, where he voluntarily entered a rehabilitation program. The sheriff's department declined to file charges and released a statement saying, "We applaud this person's self-initiated efforts and wish him well in his recovery."

Photo by iStock.

The complex problem of substance will require an innovative, all-hands-on-deck solution.

It's a multifaceted problem (affecting the health care industry, criminal justice system, border security, and schools) that will require a complex, dynamic solution.

And some are trying to find those solutions. In the town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police Chief Leonard Campanello announced this summer that his officers would no longer arrest drug users who came to them seeking help. In the first two months of the program, over 100 people entered treatment.


Paramedics take a man to the hospital after a possible overdose. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

But we don't have to wait for a silver bullet. We can take a cue from Gloucester and Kanawha County and start with one fewer arrest and one more person in treatment.

They're saving families communities from one more tragedy.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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