National leader tours W.Va. opioid programs
Help is coming to one of the hardest hit areas by the opioid crisis. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., hosted U.S. Drug Czar Jim Carroll in Mingo and Logan counties Tuesday.
The group toured a number of facilities and heard from people working on programs aimed to combat the epidemic.
"We have lost too many of a generation here in West Virginia," Capito said. "We have too many grandparents raising children because of that loss. I think it has really devastated us and given us a bit of a despair in terms of how are we going to solve this problem."
Capito said Carroll would help provide perspective on what is working in other parts of the country and what can be done to get more use out of existing funds.
"I'm here to make sure we get resources to these towns and communities that are working so hard," Carroll said. "There are economic issues, there are broadband issues. But we are trying, with the help of Senator Capito, to make sure we are doing everything we can to help these folks."
The day's first stop was at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center where organizers are taking a multifaceted approach to help addicts. The center now has a community health workers program that sends people out to meet with frequent patients on a weekly basis. It also has a medicated assisted treatment unit that uses suboxone and other drugs to help people get past addiction.
The program takes a patient first approach to get people help for their substance abuse as soon as they ask for it, organizers said.
"To get people into some recovery mode when they are ready because you can't wait," Capito said. "I think the urgency of it is something that was really impressed upon us today. We are working hard to solve this problem, and our statistics are better, but they're still way way too high."
"One of the things that is happening here is that the community is coming together," Carroll said. "The number of high death opioid prescriptions across the country are down almost 40 percent and so much of that has happened here in West Virginia to drive these elicit, really wrong prescriptions from going out the door."
They visited a bakery that the center has opened to help provide employment for recovering addicts. It makes special dietary need donuts and more that are sent to be sold in restaurants and shops as far as Pittsburgh.
These jobs help provide accountability for addicts beyond participating in their treatment programs.
Capito and Carroll also attended and spoke at a Mingo County Drug Court graduation ceremony. Two people graduated from the program on Tuesday after spending years moving beyond their addictions.
"I didn't have a job," graduate Rebecca Spencer said. "I didn't have my house. I didn't have my kids. I didn't have nothing, but now it's all coming back. I am getting my credit score. I didn't even think about my credit score back then."
"I didn't care when I was a drunk alcoholic doing cocaine," Spencer continued. "Now I've got credit cards, I've got people actually who believe in me and it makes me feel so good."
Capito and Carroll concluded the tour by participating in a round table discussion with patients at the Southwest Regional Day Report Center. Capito said addiction can only be overcome if organizers on all levels of the treatment process work together to get people back on their feet.