Taking Action

Morrisey makes the DEA do its job

For many years, drug companies pumped opioid pain pills into West Virginia at an incredible rate. To cite just one of several horror stories, during a decade-long period, 20.8 million of the pills were sent to two pharmacies in Williamson, which has a population of only about 2,900 people.

No one in the federal government seemed to think that was worth even noticing. Meanwhile, thousands of Mountain State residents were dying of drug overdoses, many because of addictions that began with opioid pain pills.

Earlier this year, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, insisting it do more to curb the flow of opioid drugs into the state. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged the DEA would become more involved.

And this week, the DEA formally put new rules in place. They are complex, of course, but they amount to the agency paying more attention to how many pain pills are shipped to states — and how many are being diverted to illicit uses. The rules also give states more power to point out abuses and demand DEA action.

Good for Morrisey. His determination to make the DEA do its job is a step forward in the battle against substance abuse, not just in West Virginia, but throughout the nation. The attorney general deserves enormous credit.

So now, the DEA is taking a more active role in the war against drug abuse. One wonders why it took action by Morrisey to make that happen.

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Children are being taken from their homes by the state at a terrible rate in West Virginia. Federal officials rank us as No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation.

Blame the drug abuse epidemic. We see it time and time again right here in our area: Law enforcement officers go to a home, find children being neglected and/or abused, and arrest one or both parents for drug offenses. They need new homes, at least until — or, perhaps, unless is a better word — their parents get clean.

In 2016, the last year for which complete statistics were available, 2,171 children had to be taken from their homes for their own safety.

The situation is growing worse. During the past three years, there has been a 22 percent increase in child abuse/neglect referrals to state officials.

It is the worst child welfare crisis since the Great Depression, state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch has said. And, he has added, “One of my biggest fears is funding.”

Give the DHHR credit for doing more with less. It has. But clearly, more resources are needed.

If they cannot be obtained on an emergency basis from Washington, it will be up to the Legislature to provide additional funding.

Lawmakers should not shirk the duty they have to our children.

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