This small city in West Virginia was losing its war on drugs. On one day in just a four-hour period, there were 26 opioid overdoses in Huntington. The police were overwhelmed, and the city was living up to its reputation as the “Overdose Capital” of America. In Huntington, incidents of drug-related deaths were eight times the national average. To turn the situation around, the city took an unorthodox step and hired an addiction counselor to accompany police on drug raids. Sharyn Alfonsi reports on this unique strategy that an Appalachian city hopes will stem the tide of deadly opioid abuse. The story will appear on the next edition of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, June 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Regular raids of drug houses were not making a dent in the opioid problem in Huntington, says Capt. Rocky Johnson, commander of the city’s drug squad. “The next day, they’re right back at it. Somebody just filled the spot. And that is when I started to think as hard as we’re pressing and as hard as we’re pounding away at this problem, we’re not making any difference,” he says.
Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial was so frustrated that at one point he asked for federal help and received agents from the ATF, the DEA and the FBI. He even called out his state’s National Guard. In the end, he realized the problem to fix was the unrelenting demand for drugs. “Our side is to disrupt the supply. But what was invariably left behind was a group of people – who were the buyers, who were still coming to the store looking for that,” he tells Alfonsi.
They turned to an addiction counselor in an unusual move. The city brought in mental health addiction specialist and social worker Krishawna Harless to offer help to the addicts police encountered on drug raids. “Basically, our city was in a crisis. And their officers were exhausted… they couldn’t arrest their way out of it,” says Harless “I had to get out on the street, and I had to really meet with people all the time and be there all the time.”
Harless says Johnson told her he was seen in a different light with her on his raids; people saw him as there to bust the dealers and help the addicts. Says Johnson, “We were handing the addicts off to her so she could do her job. And that freed us up to do ours, which was target the drug dealer.” Eventually, drug-related murders came down in Huntington almost 70 percent. Overdoses dropped more than 40 percent.
Johnson is pleased he is not seeing many of the sad faces he once encountered regularly. “A lot of those faces and a lot of the people that we dealt with over, over and over again, they’re not here anymore. They’re off to rehab or straightened their life up and moved on.”
Editor’s note: Where not indicated as new, the previously broadcast segments were updated for summer broadcast.
SGB – Stellate ganglion block, a procedure used to ease pain for decades, is now an experimental treatment for PTSD that veterans say is greatly helping their symptoms. Now the Army is testing it as a potential therapy. Bill Whitaker reports. Heather Abbott is the producer. (THIS IS A NEW SEGMENT)
HUNTINGTON WV – In a small city overwhelmed by drug overdoses, a desperate police department began sending an addiction counselor along on drug raids in a successful effort to reduce the unrelenting demand for drugs. Sharyn Alfonsi reports. Ashley Velie is the producer. (THIS IS A NEW SEGMENT)
GAME OF THRONES – As one of the most expensive and successful television series ever prepared to end its run, 60 MINUTES went behind the scenes with its actors and producers to see how it was made. Anderson Cooper reports. John Hamlin is the producer.
“60 MINUTES PRESENTS: WORKING DADS”
RYAN SPEEDO GREEN – Saved from delinquency by a few caring people who listened, Ryan Speedo Green is now heard by many as an international opera star. Scott Pelley reports. Robert G. Anderson and Aaron Weisz are the producers.
THE PHOTO ARK – National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is attempting to photograph every living species in captivity. Bill Whitaker and 60 MINUTES cameras tag along on a shoot and find out animals can do the darndest things. Robert Anderson and Aaron Weisz are the producers.
JAAP – That would be Jaap van Zweden, the new music director of the New York Philharmonic, an energetic Dutchman with big plans for the famous orchestra. Lesley Stahl reports. Shari Finkelstein and Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson are the producers.
The first living Marine to win the nation’s highest combat decoration since Vietnam was able to have his PTSD symptoms greatly eased. But the experimental treatment Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Dakota Meyer received is only available in12 ofthe 172 VA hospitals. Retired Army General Donald Bolduc, who also benefited from stellate ganglion block therapy (SGB), is calling for the procedure to be made a part of all PTSD treatments. He speaks to Bill Whitaker for a report about SGB on the next edition of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, June 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The numbers of soldiers and veterans suffering from PTSD is the highest ever after 18 continuous years of war. Despite the billions the U.S. military has spent on PTSD, only about 40 percent of its sufferers find any relief. Bolduc, a former Green Beret and the only senior officer to admit having PTSD while on active duty, wants to change that. “There’s enough evidence out there that this is a valid therapy and it’s something that works.” He says that after his wife confronted him about his PTSD he received an SGB. “It was magnificent. Everything was crisper and clearer,” he tells Whitaker.
The procedure, commonly used since the 1920s for treating chronic pain, consists of injecting a local anesthetic into a cluster of nerves deep in the neck called the stellate ganglion. Dr. Michael Alkire of the Long Beach, Calif., VA is studying how SGB works by pinpointing the changes in the parts of the brain affected by PTSD. He says 80 percent of his SGB patients had relief from depression and suicidal thoughts. He was shocked at first, “because there’s very few things in medicine that work that quickly,” he says. When Whitaker characterizes SGB as “rebooting” the veterans’ brains, Dr. Alkire responds: “A very good way to think of it.”
The effects of SGB can last up to six months, for some even longer. SGB is not a cure, but for PTSD sufferers like Iraq War veteran Henry Coto, it helped when nothing else did.
Coto blames PTSD for the failure of his marriage and the loss of his friends. SGB was a last resort when other treatments, such as anti-depressants and talk therapy failed. He says he felt better in two minutes. “I can’t control my smile…it’s like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders and my chest, and I can actually relax.”
The Army is now funding the first clinical trial of SGB. Says Bolduc, “I think [SGB is] hugely important and it needs to be an intervention that’s part of every post-traumatic stress therapy.”