In the heart of the opioid crisis, a compassionate approach to treatment is saving lives.

One West Virginia city has lost so much in the opioid epidemic — but the tide may be turning.

West Virginia suffers from the highest rate of fatal overdoses in America. And Huntington, West Virginia, is often referred to as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic. In December 2017, the state's governor called in the National Guard to help address the crisis, declaring, "We have to stop this terrible drug epidemic. We have to. If we don't, it will cannibalize us."

A new program is helping: In Huntington, city officials are finding success with the new Quick Response Team (QRT) program that follows up with overdose survivors within 72 hours of their ODs to help ensure they get the necessary help. The teams include a police officer, a paramedic, and — perhaps most importantly — a mental health specialist.


Advocates of the new approach say having these teams arrive to offer compassion, instead of just the punitive threat of law enforcement, is building trust and a solutions-based approach between officials and those struggling with addiction.

"For so many years, we didn't see the patients being receptive," said Connie Priddy, a coordinator with the program. "And now, because we're working on changing how we approach it, their way of accepting us has changed."

The numbers speak for themselves: Since the program started, Huntington has seen its repeat overdose statistics cut in half. It's such an impressive feat that other cities in the state are about to test out their own versions of the program.

A resident in a Huntington, West Virginia, halfway house who is receiving treatment after a heroin overdose, Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

Huntington's approach to drug overdoses is having a ripple effect.

The state government has taken notice of Huntington's success story. In December 2017, they approved a four-year pilot program with a grant of $10 million to expand the services to other cities in the state. $1 million of that has gone toward purchasing and distributing naloxone, which treats narcotic overdose, to first responders statewide.

"The ultimate priority of this legislation … is to engage individuals with treatment options at every opportunity thereby reducing future overdoses," said Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch.

It could expand to the federal level as well. In May, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited Huntington and praised the program. "I came to Huntington because it's one of the best stories in the United States in terms of recovery," he said. "If we can turn around overdose numbers here, we can do it anywhere."

Addiction is a complex challenge, but it's also a very human one.

There's no one solution to preventing and treating addiction. Education, mental health health care, and even exercise can all play vital roles.

The compassion shown by the quick response teams in Huntington is building trust between law enforcement officials and those at risk. West Virginia's health commission has acknowledged that preventing and treating addiction is challenging.

Getting people into treatment gives both sides a better chance to overcome the many aspects of addiction. It's more effective and less expensive than simply punishing people.

And until the opioid crisis is solved, cities across the country need all the help they can get.

Family

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

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Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

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