Drug Abuse

State needs all the help it can get

It has been nearly a decade since drug abuse became an epidemic in West Virginia. We can pinpoint with some certainty when it happened, using drug overdose deaths as a guide.

In 2009, our state’s overdose death rate was not a particular cause for concern. At 10.3 deaths per 100,000 population, it was in the same range as a dozen other states. Then, the rate 2010, it skyrocketed to 25.6. West Virginia has had the highest rate in the nation, by far, since then. It was 49.6 at last count.

West Virginians have known for some time that substance addiction is tearing our state apart. Our resources for dealing with it have been limited.

Just how tragic those limits became clearer recently, when state officials talked about how to use $14.6 million in federal funding that was announced in late March. The money is a follow-up to $28 million received last summer.

Christina Mullins, commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health, understands the battle against drug abuse is not a simple one. “We have to figure out how to attack it from every angle,” she told MetroNews.

One important tool is treatment of addicts. Helping those hooked on opioids and other drugs wean themselves free is critical. That, too, has been apparent to Mountain State residents for some time.

Our resources in providing treatment programs have not been adequate, however. Mullins said she hopes the new round of federal funding can be used to ensure residents of every one of our 55 counties have access to treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Nearly a decade into the crisis, some counties do not have that access, Mullins said.

Finally, meaningful federal aid against drug abuse has begun to flow to West Virginia. It should have started years ago.

Some people have a saying to describe the dilemma of not recognizing a problem until it has become a serious challenge to overcome. We let it get ahead of us, we say.

Well, years of pleas for help from our state fell on deaf ears in the federal government for too long. Washington let this one get ahead of us.

Better late than never. Let us hope the federal funds keep flowing. We need all the help we can get.