West Virginia needs an Addiction Action Plan to tackle the opioid crisis from all angles, including enforcement, treatment, prevention, recovery and re-entry. We also need a drug czar – a cabinet-level Executive Director - who would report directly to the Governor and lead our Drug Control Policy Office. The Executive Director must work closely with leaders of public health, public safety and corrections to ensure a unified approach to the issue and to avoid duplication of efforts. The Executive Director would also assist in the development and passage of meaningful legislation regarding issues of substance abuse and serve as a legislative liaison on these issues.
I will also advocate for the creation of the Governor's Drug Policy Advisory Council, a small group that would be created by the Governor and include experts from the fields of enforcement, treatment, prevention and recovery. The Governor could also include representatives from various governmental agencies on the Council, such as the DHHR, the Attorney General's Office, or the State Legislature.
Here's a summary of what I would do to enhance our efforts in some of the most important areas:
Enforcement: I’ll support our drug task forces with the resources they need to protect our borders and to stop the flow of heroin and fentanyl coming into West Virginia. We’ll take a data-driven approach, working more closely with our federal partners, and do a better job of collecting and analyzing data about drug trafficking trends. We’ll also implement a statewide overdose mapping tool and warning system.
Prevention: I’ll lead a statewide, trauma-informed approach to prevention, much like they’re doing in the City of Martinsburg. Using the ACE Study (Read the Study), we can identify children who need counseling and mental health resources before they consider turning to drugs to numb the pain in their lives.
Treatment: I’ll help to ensure that we have enough treatment beds so that people get the help they need right here at home. Too many people are forced to leave the state for help or to go without treatment at all. Let’s tap into all available resources – especially federal resources – to provide sufficient treatment for all West Virginians who need it.
Recovery: In West Virginia, we have thousands of people in recovery from addiction. The fight to stay sober is incredibly difficult and those who are in the fight need resources to support their long-term recovery. I’ll work to enhance what’s available and make sure everyone in the Northern Panhandle has what they need to maintain their sobriety.
Re-entry: Once released, drug offenders must find employment and housing. If they don’t, the likelihood them of reoffending and returning to prison is much greater, thus costing taxpayers even more to pay for incarceration. I’ll help to make sure that non-violent citizens who have paid their debt to society have what they need to get their lives back on track.