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Problem gamblers need more assistance

More needs to be done to help those in the Mountain State whose gambling habits have gotten out of hand.

It's a problem on the rise. In the first six months after The Problem Gamblers Help Network was created in our state in 2000, the network received 79 calls. It now gets an average of 77 -- per month.

And while the network has helped more than 1,200 people since its inception, director Mia Moran-Cooper says it still is unable to work in areas such as prevention, education and research.

Making the situation even more of a struggle for the network is the fact that its caseload continues to grow, yet the $500,000 allocation the Help Network gets from the state Lottery Commission has remained constant.

Last month, for example, the network ran a public service advertisement on television; the number of calls immediately jumped 80 percent. Because of the growing number of calls, Moran-Cooper is now concerned the network may run out of money for some of the services it offers before the end of the year.

A Fairmont-area group currently is working to help alleviate some of the workload by establishing the non-profit West Virginia Council on Problem Gambling. That's commendable work, but more needs to be done financially at the state level.

Moran-Cooper cited the case of a gambling industry employee who had called the network twice because he had lost his wife and his home as a result of his addiction. He committed suicide last month, she said.

Our state is reaping millions from its gambling industry; it needs to take a little more responsibility for any lives it is damaging in the process.

Kevin Courtney