W.Va. must deal with substance abuse crisis
Too often, task forces formed to address serious problems propose “same old, same old” solutions. By that, we mean they tend to rely on initiatives based less on innovation than on how things have always been done.
West Virginia cannot afford that in dealing with the statewide substance abuse crisis.
Ours is, beyond any doubt, the state hit worst by the epidemic of drug abuse, focusing — at least for now — on opiates ranging from pain pills to fentanyl-laced heroin. Last year, 884 people died of reported drug overdoses in our state. No one knows how many other deaths were caused by drug abuse but not attributed to it.
Earlier this year, state officials established the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy to coordinate steps to deal with substance abuse. Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Resources revealed it plans to submit a strategy for dealing with the opioid crisis, to Gov. Jim Justice. The report is expected to be presented by mid-January.
DHHR officials have said little about their plan, other than, according to The Associated Press, that it “will involve public engagement and a partnership with regional and national experts.”
How often have we heard that sort of language before?
What is needed is a pull-out-all-the-stops approach that questions virtually every aspect of health care, law enforcement and education regarding substance abuse.
Are all the weapons at our disposal being put to use? Probably not, if the record of government at all levels is any indication. Bureaucratic red tape tends to lessen effectiveness.
It simply must be cut by state government, if West Virginia is to succeed in the war against drug abuse.
Justice takes pride in being something of a government outsider, a maverick who won’t settle for the way things have always been done. Good. He ought to examine the DHHR strategy from that viewpoint — and if it is not truly innovative, he should find someone who will prepare such a plan.