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.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.