MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R- West Virginia) visited Morgantown recently to check in with his constituents and get a real sense of how he can best help them in Washington, D.C.
Right now, he said, one of the biggest concerns he sees is the ongoing opiate epidemic in West Virginia.
I think we got distracted and as a result, in Washington, because we were moving on some good opioid legislation, getting more money put into it so that we can eliminate this stigma associated with it and get people back on their feet again and employable. But then, when the COVID hit, we were distracted over on it, so I’m trying to get back people in Washington to pay attention to this. Because we still have a — it’s an ongoing epidemic.Rep. David McKinley (R- West Virginia)
The congressman said his intentions are not to derail efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic but to have his colleagues understand that America is capable of waging two major public health battles.
“Last year we had 400,000 people died from COVID,” he said. “That’s a horrible number, but at the same time we had 80,000 people die from substance abuse, so we can’t ignore that.”
Ignoring it, McKinley said, only exacerbates the problem. It’s not a solution.
He said a lot of people have “unnecessarily” died because there was not as much attention on the opiate crisis in 2020.
“But we’re spending 750 times more money for COVID than we are for substance abuse, and I think that still decimates,” the congressman said. “It’s not just West Virginia. Another state that’s being hit hard right now is Delaware. New Hampshire has been hit hard, Ohio, Indiana, so many other states have been hurt by this.”
While in Morgantown, McKinley said he took advantage of the time to talk to healthcare professionals and enlighten himself on the reality on the ground.
He said he met with doctors on Friday, May 7, at West Virginia University to find out what Congress can do.
“What are some things that we could help out on, some grant money that might be able to help out to keep this focus still back on the substance abuse? Because it hasn’t left my heart. It’s still out there affecting families all across America. Let’s still work on that.”
In order to properly address the opiate epidemic, Mckinley said he’s willing to reach across the aisle to his Democratic colleagues in the house.
“Oh absolutely, this is not a Republican-Democrat issue,” McKinley said. “It’s hitting all across the country and in all neighborhoods and families, so we’ve got to work together.”
He said he is, even, willing to work with the Biden administration. But first, a line of communication must be established.
“Right now, we have not had a chance to interact much since his administration has begun; to find out just where is he on this subject,” McKinley said. “Because we know we have another epidemic going on right now. COVID is going to be solved, but what about the families that are still dealing with opioids?”
McKinley said opiates and the damage they do to American lives is something that all politicians should be able to rally around.
He said this despite expressing pessimism about the current political climate.
“I’m more frustrated than I’ve ever been,” he said.
McKinley said the polarization is not only in D.C., but also present all across America.
“We’re becoming more polarized in America I’m very concerned about it, so I want to find out why,” McKinley said. “I need to learn from the younger generation. What do we need to do to get people talking to each other again? I’m more than willing to do it, and I’ve done that. I’ve demonstrated by what effectiveness I’ve had in Washington.”
“But what about other members? What about our society? How do we learn to talk to each other? I say somewhat tongue in cheek — do we get rid of our cellphones so we physically talk to each other instead of sending text messages to each other? Whatever it is, we’ve got to find a way to improve our interpersonal relationships, and I think then we’ll get our country back running even more smoothly than it should be.”