FAIRMONT, W.Va. – West Virginia has been greatly affected by the opioid epidemic.
The West Virginia 2020-2022 Substance Use Response Plan that was released by the West Virginia Department of Human Resources (WVDHHR) stated that the state has led the nation in age-adjusted drug overdose death rates for several years.
According to the Plan, from 2014 to 2017, the drug overdose death rate in West Virginia increased from a rate of 35.5 per 100,000 to 57.8 per 100,000, far exceeding any other state in the nation.
The substance use epidemic has increased other related health risks such as infectious diseases, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and liver disease.
“It is a very rough time for people that are in active addiction,” explained Marion County Health Department Peer Recovery Coach Anthony Ours. “With the whole everything being shut down. People having to stay away from other people, basically being self-isolated it’s a very critical time for a drug addict.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention named 28 West Virginia Counties in the Nation’s Top 220 “at-risk” counties for HIV and/or Hepatitis C due to the epidemic.
In the response plan, they explained how the epidemic has also caused an economic problem in the state. The epidemic is costing the state nearly $8.8 billion a year. That cost is based on substance use treatment, criminal justice costs, etc.
West Virginia officials developed the three-year plan to help combat the epidemic. The plan presents a strategic framework to address the current gaps and needs for the state. It encompasses prevention; community engagement and supports; integrated health systems; treatment, recovery, and research; court systems and justice-involved populations; law enforcement; and public education.
The Substance Use Response Plan is striving to accomplish the following objectives:
- Promote strategies to implement evidence-based prevention methods in schools and local
- Strive for West Virginians to have prompt access to treatment and support options that suit individuals’ needs.
- Support housing, transportation, employment, and other supports for those in recovery.
- Connect the justice-involved population with substance use disorder services and help promote positive behaviors, facilitate community reentry, and reduce recidivism.
- Promote, measure, and track prevention, treatment, and recovery outcomes.
- Provide public education that is based on the best available evidence of what is most effective in addressing stigma.
- Monitor ongoing initiatives to confirm Plan goals are achieved.
“Even if we touch-base with one individual, there’s a ripple effect that occurs amongst family members in the community as a whole,” said Marion County Health Department Peer Recovery Coach Raven Hill.