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Panel discusses opioid epidemic at public forum

Created on:   Mon, Dec 4, 2017   10:29 PM

Last modified:   Mon, Dec 4, 2017   10:28 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The shocking numbers and statistics that tell the story of West Virginia’s opioid addiction problem have been repeated ad nauseam. They are staggering.

Now what?

That was the topic of conversation on Dec. 4 as a panel of experts convened in the University High School Auditorium for a public forum.

The evening, which was hosted by Congressman David McKinley, R W.Va., and emceed by Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval, of WV MetroNews, included remarks from panelists and questions from audience members — including a vocal minority who spent the first several minutes shouting and interrupting the proceedings because McKinley was not present but in Washington, awaiting a tax bill vote.

The audience heard from five individuals, including Karl Colder, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) special agent in charge of the four-state area that includes West Virginia.

“This problem has outgrown everybody,” Colder explained of West Virginia’s situation. “I had to sell that to my people in DEA headquarters who didn’t believe. Now, they do.”

The panel also included:

Jean Bennett — Regional Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration

Jim Johnson — Director of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy

James Berry — Medical Director of WVU’s Chestnut Ridge Center

Julie Bozarth — Director of Therapy and Social Services for Clarksburg-Highland Hospital