The Dominion Post  

New director of Drug Control Policy announces partnership with WVU

Created on:   Mon, Feb 5, 2018   4:56 PM

Last modified:   Mon, Feb 5, 2018   4:56 PM

The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice announced a new director of the Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Drug Control Policy and a new, targeted effort in partnership with WVU to tackle the drug crisis during a Monday press conference.

The new director is Dr. Michael Brumage, who had most recently been executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. He is also Assistant Dean for Public Health Practice and Service at the WVU’s School of Public Health and assistant clinical professor of medicine at WVU’s School of Medicine.

Brumage earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from WVU. Brumage retired as a colonel from the United States Army in 2015 after 25 years of service as an internal medicine physician and later as a public health physician.

The new program will be a pair of demonstration projects, Justice said, targeted on a southern county, probably Wyoming, and a more populous county in the north or the Eastern Panhandle.

Justice Began pondering the idea three weeks ago, he said. The idea is to keep fighting the drug crisis statewide, with no diminution of resources or effort.

But, he said, “We don’t have enough money to fight the battle on all fronts at all times right now. … But we’ve got to come up with a model that works.” Hence, the smaller-scale effort.

“We’re going to try to do everything we can to put together a playbook that solves the riddle there,” Justice said, and expand that to other counties. “Today there is no human way that you can fight this on 55 fronts at the same time and win. We’ve got to have a win somewhere. And we’ve got to have a playbook to how that win works.”

Crouch said DHHR and WVU are in the early stages of looking at data and deciding where to do it the programs – Justice’s nomination of Wyoming came as a bit of a surprise – and looking for money.

It’s too early to say how the program will look, when it will start or where all the money will come from. DHHR has $10 million to put toward it. That money came from an announcement – issued after DHHR had put in its budget request to the Legislature – that the federal matching dollars are $12 million more than expected. So they’re putting $10 millio0n of that into the program.

Chiming in on the question about timing, Justice said, “You know I’m an impatient guy. We’ve got to move on this, that’s all there is to it.” So it will be months, not years. “We know everything we’ve done thus far has failed.”

Asked why Justice prefers Wyoming County over Huntington, which is regarded as the epicenter of the crisis, Justice said Huntington is too big to tackle right off. It’s better to start small scale. He acknowledges there’s no guarantee it will transfer to bigger communities.

Dr. Clay Marsh, executive dean for WVU Health Sciences, said WVU has staff and programs in place to help DHHR. “We are trying to be the wind in the sails.”

Marsh said that the problem is more than just a medical problem. “The root is despair and hopelessness and isolation and a mindset of scarcity versus a mindset of abundance.”

WVU president E. Gordon Gee, marsh said, has three pillars for WVU: health and healthcare, economic development and education. This program is a way to bring all those together in laser focus.

Brumage said, “I’m tremendously honored to have an opportunity to do this. There’s a lot to do and there’s a short time to do it. .. I go in very sober knowing that this is a tremendous problem we have to tackle.”

He cited a book where the author said, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” This program will focus on connections, to connect people back to themselves, their families and communities.

Winding the press conference down, Justice said Public Health Commissioner on Rahul Gupta told him, “We’ve got to act now to stop the deaths.” Justice agreed, but added, “That’s ground level. We’ve got to go way, way, way beyond that” He hopes the answer they find will inspire the nation.

“We’ll learn and we’ll perfect something we think will work. This is a monstrous problem. .. Maybe we won’t be able to eradicate it, but we can sure make a dent in this. … This is not going to be a dent with a ballpeen hammer. This is going to be a dent with a sledgehammer.”