Local, State And Federal Stakeholders Discuss Severity Of Opioid Addiction Crisis

dr Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the former West Virginia state health officer, was joined by Gayle Manchin Thursday during a second day of roundtable discussions about the severity of the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

Local business, faith, health and law enforcement leaders offered up their individual wish lists to stem addiction and substance use disorder (SUD).

Most conveyed their concern about the need for follow up services to help people reentering the community following additional treatment. One of the most pressing needs included transportation.

Sen. Joe Manchin’s wife Gayle filled in for her husband who was absent for reasons related to surgery. The federal Co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), she talked about $15 million invested in 49 INSPIRE projects to support a continuum of care, including rehab and recovery programs, as well as business and community collaborative efforts.

Manchin talked of her husband’s efforts to secure funding for abuse and addiction and recognized Gupta for spearheading efforts to fight the drug epidemic.

“Doctor Gupta, thank you; for being most important, who you are. And that is a caring, passionate, caring individual that understands Appalachia, understands rural America, but like me you are impartial and you are serving our country at a very critical time” she said.

Gupta announced $12.4 million has been awarded in grants for 99 new community coalitions across the country as part of the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program. Three are in West Virginia. The additional $375,000 in funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will be used to mobilize communities to prevent and combat youth substance use. The money will be divided between The Martinsburg Initiative, Jefferson Berkeley Alliance, and Logan County Prevention Coalition.

“This is a syndemic which means there are so many other problems related to this, we have to look at this more holistically,” he said.

Earlier this week US Sens Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced four grants from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support first responders and address substance use disorder treatment, prevention, and mental health needs.

dr Matthew Christenson, director of West Virginia’s Office of Drug Control Policy, also said recent CDC numbers show West Virginia is one of only six states that has shown a 4 percent decrease in 12 month addiction numbers since the peak of the overdose crisis during the pandemic. The national average is 9 percent.

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