I attended the public meeting in December, and commented in writing before this plan was drafted. (I'm pleased to see that our excellent home visiting programs are considered part of the equation.) Before tackling anything else—like raising the speed limit on the interstate, or taking any more measures to reduce the state's coffers—our WV Legislators need to move full speed ahead on these recommendations, and come up with the revenue to implement them.
There's more to accomplish in the long term, but lives hang in the balance right now. Our Legislative leaders are fooling themselves if they think our business climate and workforce readiness will improve without taking on the drug epidemic. GET MOVING!
Proposed Opioid Response Plan Released for Public Comment
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today released a proposed opioid response plan developed through public engagement and expert input. The preliminary report was prepared by an expert panel after review of more than 300 public comments, a public meeting on December 21, 2017, and input from state agencies.
“This crisis has plagued our state for too long,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “Governor Jim Justice has asked that we utilize all resources at our disposal to combat this epidemic. The effects of the drug problem are impacting all parts of DHHR including – Behavioral Health, Children and Families, Medical Services, and Public Health. Beginning today, our primary focus is to fight this problem on all fronts, and this plan is a crucial step in meeting that goal. Governor Justice has pledged his full support to DHHR to battle this ever-growing issue.”
Public comment on the proposed plan will be accepted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org beginning January 11, 2018 and ending on January 19, 2018. Comments may also be mailed to DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, c/o Opioid Response Plan Comment, 350 Capitol Street, Room 702, Charleston, WV 25301. They must be postmarked on or before January 19, 2018.
“This is a public health crisis of the highest order,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health and State Health Officer. “We look forward to additional public input and to saving lives in West Virginia with this strategic plan.”
The plan notes that West Virginia suffers from the highest rate of drug overdose mortality in the United States, with more than 880 deaths in 2016. Driving this public health crisis is the opioid epidemic, a dual challenge involving both prescribed opioids, such as oxycontin, and illicit opioids, including heroin and fentanyl.
The proposed opioid response plan includes high-priority, short-term recommendations in six areas:
The expert team charged with developing the opioid response plan includes:
Jim Johnson, Director of DHHR’s Office of Drug Control Policy, with 29 years of law enforcement experience including having served as both a police chief and director of the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy in Huntington.
Dr. Sean Allen, Assistant Scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former senior policy advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Dr. Jeffrey Coben, Dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health and Associate Vice President of Health Affairs and expert in the field of injury prevention and control.
Dr. Shannon Frattaroli, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the lead authors of America’s Opioid Epidemic: From Evidence to Impact, a report released by Johns Hopkins University and the Clinton Foundation.
Dr. Sean Loudin, Associate Professor at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, with a specialty in neonatal-perinatal medicine and research and clinical interests that have focused on neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The proposed plan and e-mail address for submitting comments are available on the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health website at www.dhhr.wv.gov/bph.
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