NEW INFO: W.Va. Senate Panel Scales Back Drug Abuse Bill

By: Katelyn Sykes Email
By: Katelyn Sykes Email

UPDATE 2/27/12 @ 4:15 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Retailers have trumped West Virginia health professionals and law enforcement in a debate over limiting methamphetamine ingredients.

The Senate Finance Committee voted Monday for a 7.5 grams-per-month limit on behind-the-counter cold medicine purchases.

That vote scaled back a proposed 3.6 gram limit approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

These cold remedies contain ingredients used to make meth. The state's pharmacy and medical boards advocated that tighter limit. The State Police reported a rise in the number of meth lab busts.

Lobbyists for retailers and cold remedy makers opposed the stricter limit.

But the limit approved Monday is still lower than the 9-gram cap now in state law. It's also what Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed in his wide-ranging substance abuse bill.

Senate Finance endorsed the amended bill Monday.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's a problem that's plagued the mountain state for years and it's deadly. West Virginia has the nation's highest per capita drug overdose death rate.

But a bill introduced by the Governor hopes to help curb this problem.

A public hearing on the measure was held Thursday night and many people spoke in favor of the bill. Many hoping something can be done to stop the misuse and abuse of prescription medication, as well as getting those in need help.

It's a problem judges across the state say they need help with.

"I've been a practicing lawyer for 35 years and I'm at the point now that I have never seen anything like what's happening in our state right now with this explosion of drugs," Alan Moats, Circuit Court Judge in Barbour and Taylor Counties said.

Moats said 85-95% of cases judges see across the state are drug related or have some drug component.

"It's frustrating that we can't do anything about it," he said. "We've tried everything possible. We don't have the treatment facility to put people and we just have a revolving door of people coming back and back and that's our biggest frustration."

Requests for the need of funding for these treatment centers is what dominated Thursday's public hearing.

"Without these places you're going to see a lot of your kids die," one speaker said. "You're going to see a lot of your brothers and sisters die. You're going to see a lot of people you care about die."

"My plea to you is to just put money, put funding, I don't know what I'm talking about standing up here, but I just know that I am very grateful to have a place to accept me for who I am and to teach me things," Tina Green, a recovering addict said.

The bill also proposes increased oversight of clinics that provide methadone and prescriptions for powerful painkillers. It would also create a new system to track ingredients found in meth, as well as speed up a tracking system for pain pill prescriptions.

Overall, supports all agree something needs to be done about this growing problem in our state.

"As a judiciary, we are here to say the problem is real and it's encompassing every single area of our state and everything that we do," Moats said.

The Senate Health Committee amended and endorsed it's version of the bill earlier Thursday.

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