Town hall meeting focuses on heroin crisis

By Joe Beck

STRASBURG — Jimmy Pullman was a drug addict who ran up an extensive criminal record in Warren, Frederick and other counties in the area before he found a way to recovery.

Pullman told his story to an audience of about 35 who attended a town hall-style meeting on heroin’s deepening reach and steps that people without training in law enforcement, medicine or social services can do to limit the drug’s damage.

“I wanted to live the life of Riley, and that was fueled by drugs and alcohol,” Pullman said, listing Frederick, Warren, Clarke and Loudoun counties among those where he conspired to sell and receive drugs.

“All my relationships in this area were built around drugs and alcohol,” Pullman said.

His recovery began with a 12-step program and 28-day treatment that eventually worked well enough that he is now director of treatment services for Recovery Associates in Palm Springs, Fla.

Pullman was one of about a dozen people with backgrounds in law enforcement, medicine, and addiction counseling appearing at the event, which was organized by Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley.

Wiseley said heroin has contributed to an increase in other crimes such as larceny and prostitution, offenses commonly found among addicts struggling to find ways to raise money to feed their habit.

Wiseley warned that family members are often among the first victims of an addict who turns to thievery. She urged people to look at their checkbooks regularly if they suspect someone in the household may be having a problem with heroin or other drugs.

“It’s all about getting money,” Wiseley said. “These are cheap drugs, but they still have to pay for them.”

The subject of Narcan, a heroin overdose antidote administered by EMTs to stricken victims, came up several times. Narcan, also known as Naloxone, has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in an auto-injection device. The new method is expected to make Narcan accessible to spouses, friends and family members needing to treat addicts who have overdosed.

Lisa Stokes, vice president of patient care services at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, said an emergency room doctor urged her to speak about Narcan and some of the possible risks associated with making it available to lay people.

Stokes said Narcan works for only about 20 minutes, but the effects of heroin linger much longer — about four to six hours.

“If you find someone overdosing on heroin and give them Narcan, you’ve just done them a great job for 20 minutes, but 20 minutes later, and the heroin effects are going to jump right back in,” Stokes said.

Stokes warned that a family confronted with a stricken addict will think, “we can take care of this at home, but what’s going to happen is 20 minutes later, the (victim) is going to die. The Narcan has worn off but the drug has not.”

Other town hall meetings on heroin are planned for today at Central High School’s old gym in Woodstock; and Wednesday at the Stonewall Jackson High School library in Quicksburg. Both are scheduled for 6 p.m.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com