Howell County News/ Amanda Mendez

Boy, 8, Stuck with Dirty Needle Playing Outside

A Willow Springs family is speaking out on the local drug problem after their son, age 8, was injured by a used syringe as he played outside their downtown business location. Mikey Wang is the son of Mike and Chasity Wang. The family owns and operates The Willow Tree Cafe, located at 114 West Main St. They have four children aged eight to 14 who spend a considerable amount of time in and around the restaurant. 
On September 9, Mikey was playing outside with a friend in the alley between Main and Front Streets, Chasity told Howell County News. The used needle was in a patch of overgrown grass next to a shed in the alley, and Mikey was injured as he crawled through the grass playing.  
The family will spend the next several weeks in suspense as they wait for test results to confirm their only son has not contracted any communicable disease from the needle stick. For now, his mother says he is feeling well and is taking antiviral medication as a precaution against HIV or hepatitis infection. 
The Wangs decided to share their story and agreed to use their young son’s name to put a face on the problem of widespread drug use. They hope to raise awareness about the issue.
“It’s not just someone. It’s this child, someone you know,” she said. 
Prior to this incident, Chasity said they have found multiple items of drug paraphernalia behind the cafe, including needles.* 
After the boy was hurt, they contacted the Willow Springs Police Department, but left to take the child to the emergency room before the police arrived. According to a press release from WSPD, Officer David Hocking made contact with Wang on September 10 regarding the incident, but took no action. 
In an interview with Howell County News, Police Chief Bryan Hogan was frank about the issues surrounding drug use in Willow Springs. 
“Unfortunately, yes we do have a drug problem,” he said, “If I knew the solution, we would be implementing it.
We make arrests when we can. I feel like the guys are active looking for that. We made a traffic stop yesterday [September 15] that resulted in seizure of controlled substances.
You’ve got people with bad habits and bad manners making bad decisions...They don’t give a concern about the children,” he suggested. 
In terms of active investigations that are currently addressing the drug use and distribution in town, Chief Hogan could not comment, but he did explain that he is in “constant” communication with the South Central Drug Task Force. 
“All I can say is that we’re very aware of the issues and trying to do something,” Chief Hogan offered. 
Regarding this specific incident, Chief Hogan said there is not a suspect. He also related that reports of discarded needles have come from all over town and are not confined to the downtown area.
Certainly Willow Springs is not the only city in the area with a drug presence. The opioid epidemic is a nationwide crisis. 
“It’s a huge concern. However, I don't know where we can go in the US right now where it’s not a problem. I think we do a decent job of [addressing] it,” Chief Hogan concluded. 
A big part of the Wangs’ desire to tell their story was to get the word out about treatment and support resources in Willow Springs for anyone who may be struggling with addiction. 
Though there are not any rehabilitation facilities in town, there are several local support groups. In Willow Springs, Support HOPE meets Saturdays at 4:00 p.m.
“There's a lot of options actually available,” said Amanda Wade, leader of Support HOPE, “There are resources available for year-long treatment programs that are free. There is an NA meeting in Mountain View, and Turning Leaf in West Plains.”
Wade invites anyone who needs help to contact her directly.
“I'm more than happy to help guide them in finding the right resources,” she said. 
Contact Wade at 417-252-3486 or Westside Family Life Center at 417-469-3360 for information on Support HOPE. Turning Leaf in West Plains can be reached at 417-256-2570.
*Publisher’s note: The news office is on the same block as the cafe, and this writer has also found used needles in the area. These were reported to the police.
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