Sad and shameful statistics

For sports fans, statistics can be a source of fun and happiness. The following statistics are unlikely to make anyone happy, however, and they certainly aren’t fun.

West Virginia has the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 28.9 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities, according to a report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic,” that was released in October.

The state with the second-highest rate is New Mexico, far back with 23.8 per 100,000 people. Only two other states, Kentucky and Nevada, average more than 20 overdose fatalities per 100,000 people.

The number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – in the Mountain State has increased by 605 percent since 1999, when the rate was 4.1 per 100,000.

For these and many other serious reasons, the Mountain Region Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force was created.

U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II announced Monday in Elkins that nine agencies in three counties have joined forces to form the region’s first drug and violent crimes task force,

In his remarks, Ihlenfeld mentioned that another study recently released by the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy found that the number of methamphetamine laboratories seized by law enforcement agencies in West Virginia in 2013 was more than 500 – almost double the number seized in 2012. Although most of those meth labs were seized in Kanawha County, Upshur County ranked fourth on the list.

Our region definitely has a drug problem, and we applaud the agencies involved in forming the tax force – the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia’s Office, the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Tucker County Sheriff’s Office, the Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Forest Service.

The unit will specialize in the investigation and prosecution of drug-trafficking crimes in Randolph, Tucker and Pocahontas counties as well as the surrounding area, Ihlenfeld said.

Hopefully their hard work – which already resulted in drug indictments of nine local individuals in federal court last week – can move West Virginia farther down the drug overdose mortality rate list, saving many residents’ lives and futures along the way.

Ihlenfeld knows it won’t be easy.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us, but that just underscores why it’s important to have a group like this,” he said Monday.

We couldn’t agree more.